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November 3, 2017

Arts Friday | VIFF's Magnificent Vancity Theatre

The Vancouver International Film Festival's year-round venue, The Vancity Theatre

Every year in late September thru mid-October, for 36 years now dating back to 1981, for 16 magnificent days the Vancouver International Film Festival brings the best of world cinema to our shores, offering as it has for so very long a humane, engaging window on our often troubled world.

But what of the remainder of the year?

Where will cinéastes find the best in world cinema over the remaining 50 weeks of the year? The answer is simple: the comfy-as-all-get-out 175-seat Vancity Theatre located at 1181 Seymour Street at Davie, designed by Hewitt and Kwasnicky Architects, and opened in September 2005 just in time for that year's tremendous-as-always annual Vancouver film festival.

Yes, the year-round venue of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is a warmly inviting not-for-profit cinema, operated by the film festival society on a site leased to VIFF at a nominal rate by the City of Vancouver, the City extracting from the developer, the Amacon & Onni Group (in exchange for greater height of their two Brava condominiums), a community amenity contribution that led to the construction of one of Vancouver's most important year-round cultural resources, The Vancity Theatre — for which construction contribution you would have to think the late, celebrated Vancouver City Councillor Jim Green played a pivotal role.

The Vancouver International Film Festival's year-round venue, The Vancity TheatreThe comfy year-round VIFF venue, the 175-seat Vancity Theatre on Seymour, at Davie

Unlike the Toronto equivalent of The Vancity TheatreThe Bell Lightbox Cinema — which is losing money and contributing to the many woes of the Toronto International Film Festival, our Vancity Theatre is doing just fine.

Globe & Mail Arts Editor Barry Hertz and Molly Hayes have reported ...

Audiences aren't showing up for screenings at the Lightbox building on King Street West, designed to provide a headquarters for TIFF year-round and serve as a draw for both local film lovers and tourists.

Conversations with more than 40 current and former TIFF employees, and two dozen other individuals close to the organization, present a picture of an institution whose vision is unarticulated and whose current business model appears to diverge with industry and audience trends.

Why is the Vancity Theatre doing so well in the era of streaming sites such as Netflix & Amazon Prime, which has viewers shifting their focus towards Dolby 7.1 surround-sound all-the-bells-&-whistles QLED home theatres?

Vancity Theatre programmer Tom Charity, Italian Cultural Centre Director Giulio ReccchioniVancity Theatre's Tom Charity, left, with the Italian Cultural Centre's Giulio Reccchioni

Two words: Tom Charity, who then VIFF Director Alan Franey (currently VIFF's Director of International Programming) identified as a potential saviour of a Vancity Theatre which had fallen on hard times audience-wise. Since 2012, the utterly calm and phenomenally astute Mr. Charity has tapped into the unconscious consciousness of every demographic of film lover who resides across the Metro Vancouver region, and programmed The Vancity Theatre to a dizzyingly captivating and undreamed of success.

Coming attractions to the Vancity Theatre, in November and December 2017

The new film from acclaimed Australian director Benedict Andrews, Una (just click on the preceding link for dates and times) — which given the current, righteously angry #MeToo furore couldn't be more timely, given the film's sexual trangression subject matter, stars Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn and Ruby Stokes in what can only be described as a challenging, transgressive film — opens today at The Vancity Theatre. There are only 7 screenings between this evening & Una's final screening, Saturday, Nov. 11th, so you'll want to purchase your tickets soon.

The Divine Order, one of VanRamblings' 5 favourite films at VIFF 2017, and Switzerland's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, opens two weeks from today, on Friday, November 17th. The Divine Order is simply a knockout, providing a gentle, humane, slice-of-real-life insight into the plight of Swiss women prior to 1971, when women were not allowed to vote, and were little more than chattel. The Divine Order, though, is as far as you could get from dour, this suffragette feminist film embracing hope, with a good deal of warmth and humour in the mix. We'll write more about Petra Volpe's The Divine Order on its opening day at The Vancity Theatre.

The Vancouver International Film Festival's Vancity Theatre, in the evening

Click on this link for a full listing of all the films Tom has booked into The Vancity Theatre between now and December 3rd. Tom always books a rockin' holiday season programme (one could almost live at The Vancity Theatre from early December through early in the new year, and be all the better for it). The Vancity Theatre. Make a commitment to yourself: attend VIFF's year-round venue this month or next. You'll be mighty glad you did.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:35 AM | Permalink | VanRamblings

October 11, 2017

VIFF 2017: Wends To a Close for Another Year

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival Wends To a Close

Well, that's it — almost. The 36th edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival wraps late on Friday evening, October 13th with the "gory as f*ck" screening of Turkish director Can Evrenol's Housewife, at The Rio.

VIFF Repeats 2014

VIFF Repeats

Of course, as has been the case for many, many years the fine folks at VIFF have planned, and now released information on, their VIFF Repeats programme, which kicks off on Saturday, October 14th with Bosch: The Garden of Dreams at 11:45am, followed by Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters at 1:45pm, The Farthest at 4:15pm, and two more festival favourites, Loving Vincent at 6:45pm, and the final screening of the first VIFF Repeats day, Indian Horse, at 8:45pm. All screenings will occur at the 175-seat Vancity Theatre. Tickets must be purchased, either online or at the door, for each screening (VIFF passes do not apply to the VIFF Repeats programme). VIFF Repeats run through until Thursday, October 19th.

Still and all, during the course of the final two days of VIFF 2017 there are some very fine films that will screen for a final time, films VIFF patrons and critics alike have simply raved about, and are certainly worthy of your time and consideration — as is the case with Janus Metz's Borg vs McEnroe, perhaps the finest sports-related drama since Bennett Miller's entirely tremendous Moneyball. Borg vs McEnroe screens for a final time at VIFF at 3:30pm at the Vancouver Playhouse on VIFF's last day, Friday, Oct. 13th.

On VIFF 2017's second-to-last day (Thursday, October 12th), you might want to turn your attention to the following VIFF patron favourites ...

  • Sami Blood (Grade: A). Knocked our socks off. Little wonder that Lene Cecilia Sparrok won a raft of Best Actress awards, and Danish director Amanda Kernell an equal number of Best First Feature and Best Director awards. A compelling and heart-wrenching watch from beginning to end. A must-see. Screens at 11:15am, Tinseltown, Cinema 10.

  • Call Me by Your Name, (Grade: A). A friend wrote to us at 2am, "If you haven't already, please go see Call Me by Your Name. It was exceptional. I watered up 3 times in that movie, each one more soul crushing than the last. Left the theatre with a heavy but full heart." Yep, yep, yep. Couldn't agree more. Screens for a final time at 3:15pm at The Centre.

  • Close Knit. According to Screen Daily's Wendy Ide, Close Knit is "gentle, empathetic and deliberately non-confrontational, taking a mild-mannered approach to transgender issues. Having lived in the U.S., director Naoko Ogigami upon returning to Japan found herself struck by the invisibility of the trans community in her home country. Close Knit's narrative revolves around 11-year-old Tomo (Rinka Kakihara) who finds herself adopted by her Uncle Makio (Kenta Kiritani) when her mother abandons her. Makio cautions that he is now living with someone. Someone unusual. Rinko (Toma Ikuta) is a transgender woman. Tomo's initial reserve is soon won over by Rinko's warm and nurturing nature, and the fact that Rinko keeps a spotless home, and creates cute bento boxes full of rice pandas and sausages sculpted into various sea creatures, which Tomo loves. A nuanced, softly lit family portrait, with compassion and conflict held carefully in balance, Close Knit screens for a final time at 4:15pm, Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10.

  • The King's Choice. Dramatizing a celebrated moment in the Norway's constitutional monarchy, when King Haakon VII (Jesper Christensen) refused to surrender to the Nazis' invasion, director Erik Poppe's filming of the blistering climactic encounter between the King and the German envoy makes for one of the most compelling cinematic scenes of the year. Screens for a final time tonight, 9:30pm, at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10.

And now onto the final day of VIFF 2017 ...

Friday, October 13th


  • Borg vs McEnroe, (Grade: A). Janus Metz's powerful, nuanced biopic while telling the story of one of the great tennis rivalries of all time creates a compelling and oft-times thrilling piece of entertainment. A must-see. Screens at 3:30pm, at the Vancouver Playhouse.

  • The Party. With a dream ensemble cast (at least to those of us that love indie filmmaking) and one of the big hits at VIFF this year, a film about which absolutely no one has anything negative to say (no mean feat, that), the new movie from director Sally Potter had Variety critic Guy Lodge writing in his review from Berlin, "Gleefully nasty, zinger-packed this deliciously heightened, caviar-black comedy sets up its brittle, bourgeois characters like bowling pins and gleefully knocks them down in 71 minutes flat, Potter's dark drawing-room comedy her zestiest work in ages." Screens for a final time at 5pm at The Centre.

  • Wonderstruck, the Closing Gala film, 7:30pm at The Centre, and 9:15pm at The Playhouse. Todd Haynes new film that took Cannes by storm. Stars Julianne Moore (who's been brilliant in every film she's ever starred in), about which critic Wendy Ide wrote in Screen Daily, "With first rate work from cinematographer Edward Lachman, costume designer / executive producer Sandy Powell, production designer Mark Friedberg and — particularly — composer Carter Burwell will ensure Wonderstruck, with its gradual swell of emotion that builds to a belter of a tear jerking climax, will emerge as a significant awards season contender."

And that will wrap the Vancouver International Film Festival for 2017.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.

The Vancouver International Film Festival Comes to a Close for Another Year


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:17 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

October 9, 2017

VIFF 2017: Films To Ensure You See Before VIFF Ends

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, viff, final week, films to see

Today on VanRamblings, the must-see films screening in the final week of VIFF 2017, those films lauded by VIFF patrons, films with critical acclaim extraordinaire, films which will either provide you with early insight into what movies will be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 4th, 2018, or provide you with the opportunity to see outstanding cinema for the final time at VIFF 2017, cuz these films ain't a-gonna be making their way back to our shores any time soon, or (in fact) ever again. So, you know what to do ...

Playing once and only once at the 2017 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival, a last-minute addition to the VIFF lineup, the most talked about American début feature of the year, having taken both the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals by storm, and set for a raft of Oscar nominations come Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 — including a Best Actress nod for Saoirse Ronan, and long overdue Best Supporting Actress recognition for Laurie Metcalf, not to mention Best Screenplay and Best Director nominations for — indie actress Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird ... Screens today, Monday, October 9th at 4pm at The Centre. See ya there!

Don't forget: Aki Kaurismäki's VanRamblings-recommended The Other Side of Hope screens directly after Lady Bird, 6:30pm at The Centre. At 9:15pm, VanRamblings' favourite film of 2017, Andrei Zvyagintsev's magnificent Loveless screens at the Vancouver Playhouse, on Hamilton Street.

On Tuesday, 6:15pm at the Vancouver Playhouse, you simply don't want to miss the single most buzzed about film at VIFF 2017, director Amanda Kernell's powerful multiple award winner, Sami Blood — the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actress (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) winner at last spring's Seattle Film Festival; Special Jury Prize winner and another Best Actress win for Sparrok at Tokyo's 2017 Film Festival, with a Best Director of a Début Film win for Amanda Kernell at this year's prestigious Venice Film Festival.

Nor do you want to miss Alain Gomis' Grand Jury Prize winner at the Berlinale this year, Félicité, a raw, near documentary-style music-infused reverie, an often dreamlike portrait of Félicité, a singer who is just barely scraping by in modern-day Kinshasa, a dirty, hardscrabble, lawless but irrepressibly energetic city. Screens twice at Cineplex International Village, both times in Cinema 10, on Tuesday, October 10th at 9:30pm, and the next day, Wednesday, October 11th at 4:30pm.

On Wednesday, October 11th there's a veritable cornucopia of fine cinema that will screen at VIFF 2017 on its third to last day ...

  • Ismael's Ghosts, VIFF fave Arnaud Desplechin's most daring film yet, a tour-de-force of mise-en-scène and a prismatic portrait of a filmmaker haunted by his past, starring Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel, which screens for the final time at 10:45am at Cineplex, Cinema 9;

  • Or, at 11:30am at Cineplex Cinema 9, you could take in British writer-director Francis Lee's remarkable, award-winning accomplished first feature, God's Own Country, about which VIFF patrons and critics alike have been raving, the story of a troubled, taciturn and volatile young man living on a remote Yorkshire farm that although it didn't court Brokeback Mountain comparisons directly enough with its tale of two young sheep farmers finding love in a hopeless place nonetheless seals the deal. Says VanRamblings critic favourite Guy Lodge in his review in Variety, "By the time the tightly controlled soundscape blooms into the widescreen baroque pop of Patrick Wolf for the closing credits, the resulting heart-swell feels thoroughly earned";

  • And let us take pains to remind you of how much we loved Alexandra Dean's kickass documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, which screens for a final time at 3:45pm at the Vancouver Playhouse.

And then there are entirely remarkable evening screenings on Wednesday, October 11th that are not-to-be-missed ...

  • Sour Apples, VanRamblings' own David House's favourite VIFF film (and a VIFF cineaste favourite, too), writer, director and star Yilmaz Erdogan's boisterous and engaging Turkish epic, which spans decades as it recounts the story of Aziz Özay and his three beautiful daughters, as warm-hearted and inclusively crowd-pleasing a film as you could wish for, a perfect palliative and counterpoint to VIFF's usual Cinema of Despair programming (VanRamblings will find ourselves at 6:15pm at the Vancouver Playhouse to take in the final screening of Sour Apples);

  • Or, how about Phillippa Lowthorpe's Swallows and Amazons, Youth Jury Award and Best Feature winner at the Seattle Film Festival, an absolutely perfect film to take the kids to, incredibly engaging family fare, which will screen for a final time at VIFF, at 6:45pm at Cineplex's Cinema 9;

  • Or, Janus Metz's Borg vs McEnroe, at 6:30pm at The Centre, a compelling drama that has you in its grip from beginning to end, and a film that just knocked our socks off, easily 1000x better than Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' failed Battle of the Sexes, and a must-see if you possess any love at all for remarkable humanistic sports films;

  • Or at 6:15pm at The Rio, the final screening of Mina Shum's love letter to Asian mothers, Meditation Park, a small but significant picture, and a film about quiet, dignified resignation that will resonate with anyone who cherishes their family life.

And, heck, those are just the early evening screenings on Wednesday.

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival débuts Stephen Campanelli's Indian Horse

Indian Horse. A quintessentially Canadian story, adapted from Richard Wagamese's award-winning novel, Stephen Campanelli's moving drama sheds light on the dark history of Canada's residential schools and the resolute spirit of our nation's Indigenous peoples, focusing on the story of Saul Indian Horse of Manitoba's Ojibwe nation who, as a child, is separated from his family by Canada's reprehensible residential school system, where he and fellow Indigenous students suffer routine physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Teachers do their best to destroy the children's identities, in the name of the Christian god and the Canadian state.Then, Saul discovers hockey, where his talent helps him escape the school, on his journey to becoming a professional player. Only through his passion for the game and his rapidly improving skills does he glimpse a path beyond the horrors that have confined him. But is hockey enough to save him, or will his struggles to come to terms with the traumatic experiences of his past continue to haunt him? One of the buzz films at VIFF 2017, Indian Horse screens for a final time at VIFF, 9pm at the Vancouver Playhouse.

A Fantastic Woman, (Grade: A). Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's follow up to VIFF 2014's Gloria offers a sensitive, expressive melodrama about grief and the cost of being authentic in a world that too often fails to acknowledge gender variance and the lived, non-binary experience. A working of searing empathy, A Fantastic Woman traces the emergence from devastating grief of Marina (Daniela Vega), the film's young transgender protagonist, who is treated like a criminal in the wake of her older partner's sudden death from an aneurysm. A certain Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, there's even talk that Vega — who dominates virtually every mesmerizing frame of the film — will emerge as the first transgender woman to secure a Best Actress Oscar nomination, or as Guy Lodge writes in his review for Variety ...

Vega's tough, expressive, subtly anguished performance deserves so much more than political praise. It's a multi-layered, emotionally polymorphous feat of acting, nurtured with pitch-perfect sensitivity by her director, who maintains complete candor on Marina's condition without pushing her anywhere she wouldn't herself go. At one point in her mortifying police examination, a photographer demands that she drop the towel from her waist. She reluctantly complies, yet the camera respectfully feels no need to lower it gaze: A Fantastic Woman is no less assured than its heroine of her hard-won identity.

There are a great many films that will screen on Thursday and Friday, the final two days of VIFF, that we'll write about later in the week. We are looking forward to VIFF 2017's final screening, Todd Haynes' transcendent:

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:45 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

October 7, 2017

VIFF 2017: Entering the Final Week of Our Film Festival

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, viff, final week, films to see

Only seven days to go, including today, before the glorious 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival fades into warm memory.

There are a great many VIFF films that will make their début this coming week, as well as VIFF films that will screen for a final time — films all that are deserving of your time, attention, dollars and the inevitable 'you've got to arrive an hour early' interminable (yet, friendly, warm and welcoming) ticketholder and passholder line-ups outside the various VIFF venues.

For instance ...

Loveless, (Grade: A+): The new masterwork from Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leviathan) was both the critical favourite at Cannes this year (there was a broad critical consensus that Loveless would win the Palme d'Or, which it didn't do — instead, the execrable The Square garnered that undeserved honour), and the winner of Cannes' Grand Prix award.

A withering, pitiless and devastating indictment of contemporary Russia (who knows why Russia has chosen Loveless as their Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee), as potent a cinematic exploration of anomie as you're ever likely to witness on screen, Zvyagintsev's Loveless emerges as nothing short of a masterpiece, not simply an apocalyptic study of a failed marriage and a failed system of justice involving the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy — about which not one character on screen cares a wit — set in the midst of a loveless modern Russia where residents exist at the mercy of implacable forces, Loveless' pristine, punishing and purgatorial narrative offers with crystalline perfection viscerally intelligent and merciless filmmaking, every shot chosen with care, the bitter stillness of the near black-and-white cinematography capturing lives in disintegration, as harrowing a film as will be released in 2017. All of which makes Loveless a VIFF 2017 must-see. There's one final VIFF screening of Loveless: Monday, Oct. 9th, 9:15pm, Vancouver Playhouse.

3-year-old Paula Robles and 6-year-old Laia Artiga, the stars of Carla Simón's Summer 19933-year-old Paula Robles & 6-year-old Laia Artiga, star in Carla Simón's Summer 1993

Summer 1993, (Grade: A): Although it has completed its run at VIFF 2017, VanRamblings wishes to have recorded for posterity that Spain's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry, Summer 1993, has emerged as our favourite film at VIFF this year. A polar opposite to the pitiless Loveless, Carla Simón's tender autobiographical directorial début is the single most humane childhood drama to grace the screen in years, the performance of 3-year-old Paula Robles the film's beating heart, who throughout embodies a sense of dread for what might, and does occur — which is to say that Anna is twice placed in harm's way, her life force in jeopardy — perhaps at the hand of 6-year-old Frida, as Frida attempts to recover from the devastating loss of her parents, the answer to all questions coming in the film's devastating final scene, which transforms Frida from a hard-to-read, enigmatic figure into a profoundly sympathetic figure, the film's final scene providing context for all that has occurred before, with an overwhelming sense of melancholy, yet transformative and even hopeful, every person in the audience with whom VanRamblings took in the screening of the delicate Summer 1993 on the floor, inconsolable, unable to catch their breath.

The two most moving and humane migrant dramas screening at VIFF ...

Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Immensely Moving A Season in France

A Season in France, (Grade: A). Set to screen one more time, this upcoming Tuesday, October 10th, 1:30pm at Cineplex International Village's Cinema 9, Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's deeply felt, dark yet profoundly compassionate tale of illegal immigrants struggling in the lower depths of Paris relates the heartbreaking story of two brothers who attempt to make a new life in a cold, grey, uninviting and unwelcoming France, their futures at the mercy of bureaucrats, their anguish portrayed with the sombre eloquence of humanity, the story centering around schoolteacher Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) who arrived from his war-torn city of Bangui (in the Central African Republic) a year previous and who now works a menial job selling vegetables while his two young children (an exquisitely sympathetic Aalayna Lys, and Ibrahim Burama Darboe) always on the move while hoping to stay enrolled in school. The film's last, stark images are sure to prick the conscience of anyone who takes in a screening of this immensely touching, punch-in-the-gut proletarian tragedy.

Aki Kaurismäki's droll, deadpan migrant drama The Other Side of Hope

The Other Side of Hope, (Grade: A). Set to screen two more times: this upcoming Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at The Centre, and on VIFF's last day, Friday, October 13th, 6:30pm at SFU Goldcorp, master Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's droll, deadpan migrant drama marks a nostalgic and ever-so-cheeky return to form, in a film that combines poignancy, breezy laughter and expansive humanism in relating the story of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), an illegal migrant who has escaped the rubble of Aleppo for Helsinki. A gruff, moral, complex, at times hilarious, engaging and near visionary fairy tale, The Other Side of Hope is well worth a VIFF screening.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:01 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

October 3, 2017

VIFF 2017: The New York Film Festival Comes to Vancouver

15 Films Screening at New York's Film Festival are also screening at Vancouver's Film Festival

Each year for most of the history of the Vancouver International Film Festival, the prestigious, heavily juried and much smaller New York Film Festival kicks off on the same date as VIFF, creating something of a logistical problem for the print traffic folks at Vancouver's film festival (and New York's, as well), arising from the fact that the respective film festivals generally share 15 films (out of a total of 25) — as is the case again this year — and the logistics of transporting the one-and-only "print" of the film back and forth can be, and has often proved to be, something of a terrible, pull-your-hair-out nightmare for the print traffic folks at both film festivals.

Thanks to VIFF "print logistics co-ordinators" extraordinaire, Jackie Hoffart and Amanda Thomson — with able assistance from Kathy Evans (who did the job for years, along with Selina Crammond in recent years) — all has generally proved well, the DVD's on which the "films" are to be projected often set up at the last minute, just in time for the planned screening, the digital projection occurring on state-of-the-art equipment supplied and optimized by the on scene craftspersons at CHRISTIE Digital Cinema.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's Film International Festival

As was indicated above, 15 films currently screening at NYFF55 are also, near simultaneously, screening in Vancouver as part of VIFF2017. Here they are, with remaining VIFF screening times following each compilation of three films below. A bit of New York in the autumn in Vancouver. Enjoy!

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's Film International Festival

BPM (Beats Per Minute). Has completed its run at VIFF2017. BPM (Beats Per Minute) may return as part of the VIFF 'best of' programme in the week following the end of the Festival. Or, VIFF / Vancity Theatre programmer Tom Charity could book BPM (Beats Per Minute) into the Vancity Theatre at some future point. And then there's this: as BPM (Beats Per Minute) is France's entry into the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar sweepstakes, BPM could even conceivably garner a run at your local Cineplex theatre.

Call Me by Your Name. There are three upcoming screenings, all at The Centre: Thursday, October 5th at 9pm (where you'll find VanRamblings); Sunday, October 8th at 9pm; and Thursday, October 12th at 3:15pm.

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? One and only screening completed.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's International Film Festival

Faces Places. An upcoming screening this Friday, October 6th, 6:45pm, at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Félicité. Screening twice next week, both times at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10, on Tuesday, October 10th at 9:30pm, and the next day, Wednesday, October 11th, at 4:30pm.

The Florida Project. One Special Presentation screening upcoming, this Saturday, October 7th at 6pm.

15 Films Screening at New York's Film Festival are also screening at Vancouver's Film Festival

Ismael's Ghosts. Final screening: Wednesday, Oct. 11th, 10:45am at The Centre.

Lady Bird. A late addition to the VIFF line-up, the most talked about début film feature of 2017, a massive hit at both the Toronto and Telluride film festivals, and a lock for multiple Oscar nominations. Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird screens once, and only once, at VIFF 2017, on Monday, October 9th, 4pm at The Centre.

The Other Side of Hope. One of VanRamblings favourites at VIFF 2017, Aki Kaurismäki's latest film screens twice more: next Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at The Centre, and the final day of VIFF 2017, Friday, October 13th, 6:30pm at SFU Goldcorp.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's International Film Festival

A Skin So Soft. Alas, it's gone. No more screenings.

The Square. Also gone. Good. We hated it.

Thelma. One more screening: Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at the Vancouver Playhouse.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's International Film Festival

The Venerable W. One more screening, this Friday, October 6th, 6:15pm at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 8.

Western. A Bulgarian film VanRamblings quite liked (one of our favourites), probably too slow for many folks — be we thought that as a character study, Western worked. And that gorgeous countryside, and the Bulgarian people! Western's two final screenings, both times at SFU Goldcorp: Wednesday, October 4th, at 6:15pm, and VIFF's last day / last screening, on Friday, October 13th, at 9pm.

Wonderstruck. The VIFF 2017 Closing Gala film — if you want to go to the Gala and party afterwards, the screening takes place at The Centre, on Friday, October 13th at 7:30pm, but as for VanRamblings, we'll take in Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck the same night at The Playhouse, at 9:15pm.

Yes, that's the trailer for Carla Símon's début feature, Summer 1993, one of VanRamblings two very, very favourites at VIFF 2017, Spain's nominee for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar set to screen for a final time on Thursday, October 5th at 7:15pm, at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10. There ain't no distributor in place, Netflix isn't a-gonna be picking it up, so ... see Summer 1993 on Thursday evening, or you'll miss out on one of the most spectacular and utterly humane films to screen at VIFF this year.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:41 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 30, 2017

VIFF 2017: Efficiency, Heart, Humanity, and Social Progress

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival first day impressions

September 29, 2017 — the first full day of the incredibly wonderful and oh-so-moving 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival — proved to be a delight and a joy, not just because the films we screened were exquisite and humane, powerful and life-changing, but because ...

  • The opening day, a VIFF-patron-friendly and peerlessly humane level of VIFF venue logistical organization was brought to the fore that was so respectful of VIFF filmgoers VanRamblings was both astounded and overjoyed (generally, there's a great deal of kvetching from patrons in the early days of the Festival — not this year, for the very first time!).

    The commitment made by Cineplex International Village venue manager (which means he's the head honcho), Peter Quin-Conroy — who this past three years has brought his management team (and volunteers) together to create and ensure a welcoming, efficient (read: absolutely hassle-free), near joyous and respectful of VIFF patron's often fragile and difficult-to-articulate sensibilities VIFF filmgoing venue experience.

    Peter is once again this year more-than-ably assisted in his quest for VIFF venue transcendence, by his simply exquisite floor managers (they're the ones who organize the lineups and allow ingress to the cinema, among other gargantuan and hard-to-imagine how they manage to perform their tasks of immense derring-do), the always no-nonsense (with a great sense of humour, and a ready, wry smile) Elizabeth Glancy, and new this year, Keely Langford (who quite simply just knocked our socks off — wow, wow, wow!). Please thank them when you see them.

    And, then there's the too-wonderful-to-describe-in-words Centre for the Performing Arts venue manager Kaen Seguin (with able and humane assistance provided by the peerlessly efficient Jennifer [Jenny] Tennant). From the day that The Centre became a VIFF venue, we have never experienced a more efficient and welcoming ingress of VIFF patrons.

    And let's not forget, VanRamblings' favourite year-round, and full-time during VIFF, Vancity Theatre venue manager, Jonathan Stonehouse — who requires and much deserves a second-in-this-post wow, wow, wow!

    VanRamblings, on behalf of VIFF patrons everywhere, offers our undying appreciation to Festival Exhibitions Manager Sean Wilson (yep, VIFF's numero uno when it comes to overall venue management), more than ably assisted by our newest Facebook friend, the always exquisite (hey, there's just no other word to describe) Lora Haber, not to mention, VIFF's Volunteer Engagement Manager, Brie Koniczek, who had more than a little to do with creating VIFF venue nirvana in 2017.

  • VanRamblings heard an immense amount of 'the sky is falling' kvetching from VIFF volunteers (new policy respecting VIFF volunteers in 2017) prior to the start of the Festival. Not so since the Festival has gotten underway — the attitude of volunteers, thus far, sanguine and accepting, accompanied by a realistically-minded 'wait-and-see' attitude.

  • Prior to the Festival, VanRamblings heard rumours that VIFF's Director of International Programming was unhappy and ready to resign, post Festival. "Raymond, I don't know where you hear these things. I am happy, and intend to be a part of the Festival for many years to come." Alan has never mislead VanRamblings, ever — we take Alan at his word, and breathe (along with all loyal VIFF patrons) a sigh of relief.

  • Ran into one of our very favourite people in the world, and a woman with whom we marched last Saturday in Vancouver City Council candidate Jean Swanson's March and Rally to Implement a Mansion Tax, DOXA programmer and this year a projectionist at Cineplex International Village, the socially progressive, heart-filled, community activist VIFF leader of the future, the inimitable Selina Crammond, who gently cajoled, "Raymond. Of course, you're going to vote for Jean Swanson. How could you, as a person of conscience, support anyone other than Jean?" Vancouver City Council / Vancouver School Board by-election voting day, Saturday, October 14th, the day after VIFF 2017 comes to a close.

VIFF could not be a more rewarding experience than is the case in 2017.

Otherwise, VanRamblings was a bother to CBC On the Coast host, Stephen Quinn (whose ironic sensibility came to the fore), not to mention what a bother we were to Alan Franey and Tom Charity (at least we're not quite as overly euthymic this year, as has proved to be the case in year's past — still, VIFF staff have almost always found a way to put up with us).

VIFF 2017 smash hit, Petra Volpe's The Divine Order

Okay, okay, okay — you want to hear about the films!

Thelma, (Grade: B+): A work of some genius by master Norwegian director Joachim Trier, Thelma offers an unsettling, often oblique, yet always thought-provoking foray into Stephen King-style horror tropism, accented with Hitchcockian verve (think: The Birds), and tempered with the dark dynamics of family as seen through the lens of Ingmar Bergman. Gorgeously shot and realized, all of the performances accessible and heart-felt, Thelma never quite transcends the horror genre to become something more than what you see on the screen. Fascinating, yet ultimately disappointing, Thelma does manage to achieve what all great films strive for: a lasting impression in your mind and in your memory.

The Divine Order, (Grade: A-): VanRamblings' favourite film, thus far, at VIFF 2017, writer-director Petra Volpe's inspiring, often funny time capsule of a film offers a gentle, humane slice-of-real-life insight into the woebegotten plight of Swiss women prior to 1971, much of the film's compelling narrative leading up to a 1971 referendum (in which only men could vote) that asked the question, "Should women be accorded the right to vote?" Surprisingly, and hearteningly, that answer proved to be "yes". With infectious heart and a panoply of lived-in performances by an exquisite cast, by movie's end The Divine Order emerges as so very much more than a feel-good cine-history lesson on the women's suffrage movement in Switzerland, and much more an embrace of hope and an acknowledgement that history is a dynamic, and despite the imprecations of the Donald Trumps of the world, history and social conditions move inexorably forward towards the realization of social justice for all, for each and every one of us in every far flung corner of our globe.

On VanRamblings VIFF film-going schedule for Saturday: the vital immigrant drama from Aki Kaurismäki, The Other Side of Hope, which we wrote about on VanRamblings earlier in the week; the David House-recommended, Swallows and Amazon (hello! who doesn't just love Kelly Macdonald, in every film and on every television show in which she's had a role); and, on a 'slow' filmgoing day for VanRamblings, Okja, the latest film from Korean auteur Bong Joonho, who will be present to engage at tonight's screening for what is sure to be a rewarding and enlightening conversation with this always provocative filmmaker.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:15 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 29, 2017

VIFF 2017: Vancouver's Illustrious Film Festival Off to a Fine Start

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival's SFU Goldcorp Theatre audience

Thursday evening late, the first (somewhat truncated) day of the 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival ended, VIFF officially having gotten underway, the lineups of patrons awash with good feeling ("What a lineup - so many strong films this year"), and audiences once seated at The Rio, SFU's Goldcorp Theatre or The Centre for the Performing Arts (the three opening night venues, with four more venues being added today) wildly enthusiastic, with welcoming hugs all around, and an appreciation that our little festival by the sea has once again returned to our shores to open a humane window on our often troubled, yet still hope-filled, world.

VIFF 2015 venue, The Centre for the Performing ArtsThe Centre, VIFF's Opening Gala venue for Mina Shum's new film, Meditation Park

VanRamblings was simply swept away by a VIFF opening night film, the Canadian première of Alexandra Dean's exceptionally fine Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a film which employs extensive research on Lamarr's life conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes, published in his book Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, the documentary also relying on first-person accounts from stars who knew Lamarr in her day, including a poignant yet humorous account by comedian Mel Brooks.

VanRamblings asked the permission of VIFF (and VanCity Theatre) programmer, Tom Charity, to publish his list of VIFF 2017 favourites ...

"From Germany (and Bulgaria), Western, an observant film about men, without question one of the best films from Cannes this year, Valeska Grisebach's third feature the long-awaited follow up to VIFF 2016 favourite, Longing. A Season in France (which screens tonight at The Rio, at 8:45pm), the latest film from Chad's acclaimed auteur Mahamat Saleh Haroun, moving and deeply empathetic, the film's compelling narrative presented from the too often ignored migrant point of view. Then there's B.C.'s Never Steady, Never Still (Kathleen Hepburn), one of the strongest Canadian début features I have seen in years, the work of a natural filmmaker. Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name manages to make the first love / coming of age story feel like it's never been done before."

So, there you go, a panoply of can't miss VIFF 2017 films from Vancity Theatre programmer, Tom Charity. I mean, don't you just love the films Tom programmes year-round at Vancouver's most welcoming cinema.

Meanwhile, VanRamblings' very own Mathew Englander — who this year, as he does annually, attended Toronto's film festival, where he screened 29 films — is over-the-moon enthusiastic about Michael Haneke's new film, Happy End, his very favourite at TIFF 2017, about which he has written, "Happy End is my favourite movie of 2017 so far. Haneke's new film is being compared to Amour because it has some of the same cast, but it kept reminding me of Benny's Video, only updated for the social media era."

Mathew also highly recommends two more films screening at VIFF 2017:

  • Directions (dir. Stephan Komandarev). Six taxi rides in Sofia, each shot in a single take. Komandarev's previous film, The Judgement, emerged as one of my VIFF 2014 favourites, but whereas that film had wide-open precarious mountain settings, Directions has an urban modern-noir look. The two films do, though, share a sophisticated sense of irony.

  • Sami Blood (dir. Amanda Kernell). This is a compelling début feature about a 13-year-old Swedish, indigenous Laplander, Sami (Lene Cecilia Sparrok), an under-the-radar film that met with an enthusiastic reception at TIFF 2017, and should be considered a must-see at VIFF.

VanRamblings' David House has screened writer / director / star Yilmaz Erdogan's Sour Apples saying, "Raymond, you are going to love this film from Turkey, not only a visual feast of colours, costumes, light and locations — not to mention, Turkey's entry for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — but because, well, I mean ... just look ...

Yilmaz Erdogan's new film, Sour Apples, sure to be a hit at VIFF 2017

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

VanRamblings also recommends you keep an eye out for the new film from Agnès Varda (who directed VanRamblings favourite film of all time, Vagabond, starring the exquisite Sandrine Bonnaire, for which she won the Best Actress César) — Faces Places, part of the Spotlight on France series, and a featured film at this year's prestigious 55th annual New York Film Festival, which kicked off yesterday and runs through Sunday, Oct. 15th.

Today, VanRamblings will catch the 1pm screening of Joachim Trier's Thelma, at Cineplex International Village (which we also refer to as "Tinseltown", which it used to be and is a much better name), in Cinema 9, followed by a break for a late lunch before catching Petra Volpe's The Divine Order, at Tinseltown, Cinema 10 at 4:30pm, after which we intend to wander around town aimlessly bothering people on the street before lining up at The Centre for the 9pm screening of Ruben Östlund's Palme d'Or winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival, The Square. Oh yes, VanRamblings has already written about these three films on our blog.

Now, Andrew Poon — VIFF's Gateway / Dragons & Tigers media co-ordinator (we visited the whole VIFF publicity team yesterday, at the Sutton Place Hotel, and what a fine group of folks they are) — will have our head if we don't write about the 65+ films from Asia that will screen at VIFF this year. So, we'll set about to do that very soon. In the meantime ...

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:44 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 25, 2017

VIFF 2017: A Potpurri of Films That Oughta Be on Your Radar

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, A Potpurri of Films to Consider

VanRamblings preview coverage is getting down to the crunch, given that the 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival will nominally get underway this upcoming Thursday, and kick off in its full glory on Friday, September 29th. So many fine films to preview for readers, so little time.

If you've not read VanRamblings' opening orientation column for VIFF 2017, you'll want to click on the link that has just been provided you. If you're looking for all of our coverage to date, simply click here.

In 2017, in addition to coverage of VIFF, VanRamblings is covering the Vancouver civic by-election, which somewhat 'less partisan' coverage oughta ramp up this week. Arising from our coverage of the by-election, VanRamblings' coverage of VIFF 2017 will be somewhat prejudiced. Still, we're almost as addicted to the film festival as has long been the case that we may not be able to help ourselves in providing more VIFF coverage.

Each September, the fine folks at VIFF present advance screenings of films set to 'unspool' at VIFF, films where VIFF will bring in writers / producers / directors or actors associated with a film. Of all the films in preview, by far the film with the most buzz is Melanie Woods' Shut Up and Say Something, the must-see BC Spotlight film screening at VIFF 2017 on Wednesday, Oct. 4th at 6:15pm and Sunday, Oct. 8th at 12:30pm, at the Vancouver Playhouse. Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan (the "protagonist" in the film) and the film's director will be in attendance at both screenings.

Each year the prestigious and heavily juried New York Film Festival takes place at the same time that the Vancouver International Film Festival does. Can't make it to New York for NYFF55, not to worry — this year the 55th edition of the New York Film Festival shares 12 films with VIFF, which we'll write about this upcoming Thursday, the kick off day for both festivals.

The trailer for Thelma, above, is there for a reason — cuz Thelma will screen this Friday, Sept. 29th at 1pm at the International Village (and again on Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at the Vancouver Playhouse — and will also screen Friday and Saturday, October 6th and 7th at NYFF55 (just in case you want to take a break from VIFF and catch a screening of Thelma in New York). This Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark film directed by Joachim Trier (oh, c'mon, you know that Trier's 2011 award winner, Oslo, August 31st just knocked your socks off) is another must-see at VIFF.

Here's what Rodrigo Perez, in his review on The Playlist, has to say ...

Trier's beguiling, thought-provoking and icy supernatural thriller is his most ambitious film to date and yet still possesses the essence of the young filmmaker's preoccupations about mental disorders and souls grappling with subconscious turmoil.

Moody and chilly, Thelma brings foreign language and arthouse sensibilities to the genre of the inexplicably psychic and mystical and this mélange — Stephen King fascinations and Ingmar Bergman's fearful, existential relationship with God — makes for an utterly spellbinding portrayal of the unconscious mind and the terrible implications of transformative power. And yet, for all its genre tropes, Thelma is character-driven first and foremost and plays out like a vivid and nightmarish version of a coming of age story.

One more note before we close out today's column: the big buzz film at Telluride this year, the film that knocked the socks off of filmgoers and critics alike at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, the film that is a lock for a slew of Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (which it could win) and Best Actress a lock for Saoirse Ronan, with a very probable Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for the always wonderful Laurie Metcalf, a simply stunning out of the blue début success for its novice director and longtime indie actress Greta Gerwig, yes, we're writing about Lady Bird, which will screen at VIFF only once: on Monday, October 9th, 4pm at the Centre for the Performing Arts, after which it'll be a whole month before the film opens in wide release Friday, November 10th.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:21 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 22, 2017

VIFF 2017: The Award Winning Films Just Keep on Comin'

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival Award Winning Films

Cinéastes of the western, eastern, northern and southern world are counting down the days to the start of next Thursday's much-anticipated 36th annual edition of the glorious Vancouver International Film Festival.

Today for your edification, VanRamblings presents a preview of three much-lauded films: Call Me by Your Name, the film that took Sundance by storm and won the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival; BPM (Beats Per Minute), the 1990s-set AIDS activist drama, the celebrated Grand Prix and FIPRESCI award winner at Cannes this year; and Léa Mysius' Ava, the coming-of-age story about a young girl who goes blind, which won the SACD Cannes Critic's Week Award supporting new writers.

The smash at Sundance in January of this year, and equally lauded at Telluride earlier this month, Call Me by Your Name is a lock for several Oscar nominations, the film picked up at Sundance by Sony Pictures Classics (to be distributed by Mongrel Media in Canada), and set for a wide release on Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. (and Canada), on Nov. 24th.

At VIFF, sometimes you want to be the first person among your group of friends to see a film early, and not have to wait a couple of months to catch it in regular theatres. For VanRamblings, and for many others, that's probably the case with Call Me by Your Name, which will screen three times at VIFF, each time at The Centre for the Performing Arts: Thurs., Oct. 5th at 9pm, Sun., Oct. 8th at 9pm, and Thurs., Oct. 12th at 3:15pm.

MetaCritic reviews of Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name

Almost as celebrated as Call Me by Your Name, as Guy Lodge wrote in his Cannes review for Variety, Robin Campillo's BPM (Beats Per Minute) jumps off the screen as a "sprawling, thrilling, abrasive, consoling and emotionally immediate portrait of 1990s Parisian AIDS activists, melding the personal, the political and the erotic to heart-bursting effect."

And, as we wrote above, BPM (Beats Per Minute) was the Grand Prix winner at Cannes this year, not to mention the Cannes 2017 recipient of the prestigious International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI award.

As Peter Bradshaw writes in his five-star review in The Guardian ...

Robin Campillo's passionately acted ensemble movie about ACT UP in France in the late 80s - the confrontational direct-action movement that demanded immediate, large-scale research into AIDS, compellingly combines elegy, tragedy, urgency and a defiant euphoria, ACT UP's goal to rouse the gay community from fatalism and torpor — and strike back against the hostile complacency of the political and Big Pharma.

The extraordinary power of the ACT UP campaign has assumed in cultural history is that it was something that valued life, but also made people think about death — the last taboo. It made staring into the sun not merely possible but necessary. For most people in their twenties, death is just a rumour. For the gay generation of the 80s and for ACT UP, mortality, illness and bereavement were facts they had to confront, without help from the agencies of the state.

This film has what its title implies: a heartbeat. It is full of cinematic life.

BPM (Beat Per Minute) screens twice at VIFF, both times at The Playhouse, Saturday, Sept. 30th at 3:15pm, and Monday, Oct. 2nd, at 6:15pm.

Part of the annual 10-film Spotlight on France VIFF series, the North American première of Léa Mysius' celebrated La Semaine de la Critique (SACD) award at this year's Festival de Cannes, Ava tracks 13-year-old Ava in the months following the information that she will lose her sight sooner than expected, and as she confronts the attendant problems in her own idiosyncratic way. Okay, that wasn't very articulate: let's try this ...

  • Jessica Kiang, Variety. Ava's (Noée Abita) loss of sight perhaps mirrors her loss of innocence and coming of age. Ava is a film that doesn't simply explore the textural possibilities of 35mm film for the hell of it, it makes thematic use of them, to stunning, evocative effect. Co-screenwriter, along with director Mysius, cinematographer Paul Guilhaume's visually exquisite storytelling provides a compelling resonance in a story about vision, creating images of a peculiar richness in which the colours are saturated but the lens seems progressively more stopped-down so that even the brightest sunlight can feel portentous. "She's blonde and sunny, and I'm dark and invisible" says Ava, self-pityingly comparing herself to her fair-haired love rival. But Ava's darkness is anything but invisible; it has a glowering luminosity in a film that shines darkly.

  • Wendy Ide, Screen Daily. A 13-year-old girl fights back against her impending blindness with guns — literally — blazing full bore in this insouciant tale of adolescent rebellion, the arresting visual sense of Léa Mysius' feature début boasting a robust resistance to the cinematic clichés of the usual portrayal of disability, the film's cello-infused, brutalized score providing a sense of menace, the film seeded with black: the dog, the police horses & the circles that Ava paints on her bedroom wall evoking both the fear of and fascination with her loss of sight.

That's it for today. You may expect more previews of award winning (and lauded) films set to play VIFF 2017 this weekend, and next week.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:04 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 18, 2017

VIFF 2017: Yet More Award Winning Films Screening at VIFF

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival

Today on VanRamblings, we'll present three more award-winning films that are set to screen at the 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, films without Canadian distributors in place, films you are likely to miss unless you purchase a ticket for an upcoming VIFF screening, worthwhile — even life-changing — cinema that you simply don't want to miss.

A good example? Renowned Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's The Other Side of Hope, the tale of a Syrian refugee who stows away to Finland, Kaurismäki, as always (and always to good effect), mines the narrative with the deadpan humour for which he is justly famous, all the while refusing to flinch from heartbreak and hardship. Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlinale this year, here's another VIFF 2017 film that is not to be missed.

Here is how The Telegraph's Tim Robey begins his 5-star review ...

The Other Side of Hope, Aki Kaurismäki's gorgeous and cuttingly poignant comedy, begins with a young Syrian asylum seeker emerging from a coal pile in Helsinki's industrial port. He is Khaled (Sherwan Haji), and has wound up here by accident, after escaping violent persecution by jumping aboard a freighter in Eastern Europe.

Coated black, head to toe, he finds his way to a shower and cleans up, before asking a local official where to find the police. "Are you sure?" asks the man, a young black guy, quizzically — a question that's pure, distilled Kaurismäki, in its loving irreverence, implied empathy, and suggestion of a community that wants to help the down-and-out however it can.

Khaled, though, wants to do things by the book. Handing himself in as an illegal migrant, he checks in to a Reception Centre and is grilled about his journey to Finland from the rubble of Aleppo, which is so laden with aching tragedy and racist abuse that you wonder how on earth Kaurismäki can bring a smile back to our faces, let alone the torrents of laughter, later on, that his film manages to unleash."

Excerpts from other critics' review, all of which reviews are laudatory ...

  • Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage. People like Aki Kaurismäki, Haneke, and von Trier, amongst others, might try, on the surface, to feign a certain resistance to humanism and yet their kind seem to be the only ones capable of delivering something as vital as this. The Other Side of Hope is a film that talks about hope without pretension, while maintaining a defiant faith in human decency — not to mention the faith that cinema itself still has the ability to translate that decency, with humour and clarity, to the screen.

  • Jessica Kiang, The Playlist. Kaurismäki's wonderful new Berlinale Silver Bear winner makes a stonefaced, droll but paradoxically urgent case for a truth that desperately needs to survive these post-truth times: people are people and borders are bullshit. Warmhearted, sad-eyed and straight-faced, a film with a jaunty Finnish-folk-heavy soundtrack, The Other Side of Hope offers granular, tragicomic, personal and often despairing filmmaking, wrapped up in a story that is full of hope.

For the past 21½ years, month in, month out, each and every month (including the months when we were dying of cancer), VanRamblings has submitted a 1,000 word 'philosophical' column on some aspect of the film industry — to The Fraser Journal, the baby of my longtime editor Mari Miyasaka, who has not only found a way to put up with me over all those years, but has worked steadfastly to create a Japanese language magazine that while distributing in Metro Vancouver, has found a loyal audience across far-flung locales and countries spanning the globe.

As you might well expect, then, over the years VanRamblings has developed a great affection for Japanese cinema, most particularly those films which screen at VIFF that are often sponsored by The Fraser Journal. Films such as Close Knit, part of VIFF 2017's Gateway / Dragons and Tiger series, winner of both the Teddy Jury Award, at Berlinale 2017, and recent Audience Award winner at the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival.

The international première of Naoko Ogigami's magestic film Close-Knit in the Panorama Special section of Berlinale 2017 was met with raucous applause as the ending credits rolled, with an additional enthusiastic two minutes of applause once the lights were up.

One of Berlinale 2017's triumphs, Close Knit will screen twice at VIFF 2017, both times at the Cineplex International Village in Cinema 10, on Tuesday, Oct. 10th at 6:30pm, and again on Thursday, October 12th at 4:15pm.

Here are excerpts from two reviews of Close-Knit ...

  • Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage. Combining cinematographer Kozo Shibasaki's naturalistic aesthetics and attention to texture and detail with a central theme of nurture taking over from nature, Ogigami's film could quite easily be mistaken for the work of her contemporary Hirokazu Kore-eda, another great director of modern Japanese melodrama. The fact that she has chosen to focus on an LGBT experience, something that has been absent from Kore-eda's work to this point, might suggest that Close-Knit is somehow a departure from that tradition of filmmaking. Surely the contrary is true: it's another story of Japanese life, not a different story necessarily, and it's presented exactly so. Director Naoko Ogigami's film never feels weighed down by its delicate subject matter, nor does it underplay it or come across as didactic in its delivery. Indeed, with 11-year-old Tomo's (Rinka Kakihara) future and (for want of a better word) simple goodness in the balance one might find the tremendous emotional swells of Close-Knit so moving at times that one can barely hear the sound of fresh ground being broken in Japanese cinema.

  • Guy Lodge, Variety. A nuanced, softly lit family portrait, with compassion and conflict held carefully in balance, Naoko Ogigami's gentle, sweet-souled celebration of alternative family structures, in which a maternally neglected young girl finds security in the care of her uncle and his transgender partner, Close-Knit offers a warm, practical, pastel-shaded cardigan of a film, with a winning but not too cutely played performance by Rinka Kakihara as 11-year-old Tomo, a young girl who has had to grow up a little faster than her peers, thanks to the fecklessness of her mother (Mimura), an overgrown adolescent who thinks nothing of disappearing on a whim for days on end. Note: Close-Knit is not to be viewed on an empty stomach; much of the film's key dramatic interaction takes place around lovingly prepared meals.

So, above, we have another standout film to add to your VIFF schedule.

An absolute must-see at VIFF 2017, Sami Blood arrives as a multiple award winner: the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actress (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) winner at last spring's Seattle Film Festival; Special Jury Prize winner and another Best Actress win for Sparrok at Tokyo's 2017 Film Festival, with a Best Director of a Début Film win, for Amanda Kernell, in Venice. If the trailer above doesn't have your heart pounding in anticipation of screening Sami Blood at VIFF 2017, you may want to check your pulse.

There's no Canadian distributor in place for Sami Blood. See it at VIFF 2017, or miss out entirely on the opportunity to see one of cinema's most celebrated Scandanavian films to arrive on our shores this decade.

Here are lengthy excerpts from two reviews of Sami Blood ...

  • Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post. Sami Blood — a beautiful, haunting film, anchored by a startlingly accomplished lead performance by Lene Cecilia Sparrok — relates the story of the Sami people of Scandinavia, an indigenous race that has been the victim of ethnic bigotry and systemic cultural suppression in Norway, Sweden and other Nordic countries. Set mostly in the 1930s, the poignant feature début by filmmaker Amanda Kernell, Sami Blood serves up a slice of that troubled history, with its story of 14-year-old Sami reindeer herder Elle-Marja, a precocious spitfire who, with her little sister Njenna, has been sent from the village where they grew up to a Swedish state-run boarding school for Sami children.

    Played by real-life sisters Lene Cecilia and Mia Erika Sparrok, Elle-Marja and Njenna are delights, but it's the elder sibling's performance that is the revelation. With her wide features and darting eyes — half furtive and half curious — the teenage newcomer beautifully embodies the survival instincts and self-loathing of a girl who has internalized the prejudice surrounding her and who uses her brains and moxie not to deflect attacks but to deny her own identity. This lovely, lyrical little film never seeks to hammer its point home with the viewer. Rather, Sami Blood leaves its questions about identity hanging in the air, like the scent of something or someone that passed by long ago, but that still lingers — mysterious and mesmerizing — in the breeze.

  • Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice. Amanda Kernell's scrupulously shaped coming-of-rage drama opens with Christina (Maj-Doris Rimpi), an elderly woman wearing sparkling pearls and a pitiless countenance, turning bitterly obstinate when taken back to the Lapland of her birth for her sister's funeral. She'll speak to no one, vows not to stay the night, and has zero tolerance for displays of yoik, the local throat singing. Stuck in a hotel despite her protestations, she watches a helicopter lift, the green-humped mountains behind it frosted at the peaks. The world around her is gorgeous, a true pleasure to regard, and she stares at that chopper as if it were her only possible rescue from damnation.

    Then we flash back eight decades. Sami Blood plunges into the origins of that anger, examining with rare anthropological acuity the abuse of the indigenous Sami people of northernmost Europe — "the filthy Lapps," we hear a blond boy spit as young Christina (now named Elle-Marja and played by Lene Cecilia Sparrok) troops through the woods with her schoolmates. Writer-director Kernell, making an auspicious début, expertly tracks Elle-Marja's adolescent development — her longings, the process of growing into her own body — and her realization that, no matter her intelligence or aptitude, Sweden offers nothing to a Sami beyond the plains she was born on.

    A courageous and compelling, yet quietly observant film, even given the matter-of-factness of its scenecraft, Sami Blood is a film about girlhood and racism, passing and escape. It's also about guilt, about the toll taken on a life of rejecting one's minority origins in accordance with (and in defiance of) the majority's unjust prejudice. The finale finds a ninety-year-old Elle-Marja — now Christina — flooded with grief about the family she left behind. It's overwhelming.

That's it for today's post, then, with three more films that are set to screen at VIFF 2017 presented for your consideration. More VIFF 2017 previews will be published on VanRamblings later in the week.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:30 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 17, 2017

VIFF 2017: More Award Winning Films Set to Screen at VIFF

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival Award Winning Films

More celebrated, award-winning films that will arrive on our shores in mere days, as part of the humanizing and humane and always tremendously enlightening Vancouver International Film Festival, which kicks off it's much-looked-forward-to 36th annual edition on Thursday, September 28th.

Today, three more films for you to consider placing on your VIFF calendar.

As VanRamblings wrote last week in our introductory VIFF 2017 column, rising Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) in his new, award-winning film A Fantastic Woman, celebrates the endurance of a woman under suspicion of murder in a film that could bring the first major acting award for a transgender performer to Daniela Vega.

Winner of Best Screenplay at February's Berlinale, in her review in Screen Daily, film critic Wendy Ide writes ...

Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) are in love. Despite a twenty-year age gap, they plan to spend their lives together. He left his wife and family for her. But after a birthday celebration in which he promises to take her on a trip to Iguazu Falls, Orlando is taken gravely ill. He dies in hospital. And Marina finds that, as a transgender woman, everything is called into question — their relationship, her role in his death, her right to grieve for the man she loved. Driven by a powerhouse performance by mesmerizing transgender actress Vega, the fifth feature from Lelio combines urgent naturalism with occasional flickers of fantasy to impressive, and wrenchingly emotional effect.

Benjamín Echazarreta's cinematography makes expressive use of reflections — there is a beautifully composed shot of Marina's anguished eyes staring through a window which also reflects Orlando in the emergency room. And later, a slyly positioned hand mirror teasingly refers to the crude questions of Orlando's family about whether or not Marina has had gender reassignment surgery.

The picture is tied together by an orchestral score by Matthew Herbert which is as immediately striking as Alexander Desplat's for Birth or Mica Levi's for Jackie. Herbert, best known for his playful, experimental electronic music, crafts a fluttering heartbeat of a flute motif which is achingly lovely. The soundtrack also includes Aretha Franklin's (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, a morale-boosting anthem which prepares Marina for her first encounter with Orlando's ex-wife. And Marina's own singing bookends the film, giving the picture its transcendent final scene.

Guy Lodge (one of VanRamblings' favourite film critics), in his Variety review calls Sebastián Lelio's new work "transcendent and luminous", writing in the conclusion to his review ...

Vega's tough, expressive, subtly anguished performance deserves so much more than political praise. It's a multi-layered, emotionally polymorphous feat of acting, nurtured with pitch-perfect sensitivity by her director, who maintains complete candor on Marina's condition without pushing her anywhere she wouldn't herself go. At one point in her mortifying police examination, a photographer demands that she drop the towel from her waist. She reluctantly complies, yet the camera respectfully feels no need to lower it gaze: A Fantastic Woman is no less assured than its heroine of her hard-won identity.

Meanwhile, David Rooney in his review in The Hollywood Reporter simply calls A Fantastic Woman "ravishing" and "a bracingly honest work of searing empathy, shocking and enraging, funny and surreal, rapturous and restorative, an emotionally penetrating film of startling intensity and sinuous mood shifts wrapped in a rock-solid coherence of vision".

Kamel El Basha won the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival a week ago, and The Insult is Lebanon's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar this year. Critics are somewhat divided on the film, Eric Kohn (another one of VanRamblings favourite film critics), in his B- review writes ...

Ziad Doueiri's The Insult, the Lebanese filmmaker's followup to his masterful drama The Attack is a fascinating, parable-like exploration of the tension between two facets of Lebanon's Arab community and the cross-cultural ramifications implied by their ridiculous feud. While it doesn't quite justify the sprawling courtroom antics or the blunt metaphor they entail, the movie nevertheless provides a profound look at the effect of historical trauma on modern Lebanese society.

In his review in Variety, Jay Weissberg writes, "The Insult is well-made but obvious and too often manipulative dissection of Lebanese political and religious divides that culminates in a standard courtroom drama"

Boyd van Hoeij is somewhat more generous in his review in The Hollywood Reporter, referring to the film as Law and Border, writing of The Insult, "This gripping genre yarn also looks very good. Doueiri, who worked on the early films of Tarantino as a camera assistant, here once more collaborated with The Attack's cinematographer, Tommaso Fiorilli. Their style is again fluid and sinuous, at once direct and subtly poetic. Subtle isn't a word that could be applied to Eric Neveux's driving score, however, with the music accompanying practically all the scenes outside the courtroom."

Ah yes, Petra Volpe's rousing Tribeca Best Actress Award winner for Marie Leuenberger, The Divine Order traces the political awakening of young wife and mother taking the fight for women's suffrage in Switzerland -- which ended with victory in ... 1971. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser at VIFF, when you consider that the Vancouver International Film Festival is most often synonymous with what is most commonly referred as the cinema of despair ought to mean that The Divine Order will not only prove an antidote to the more dour VIFF offerings, but emerge as the 'feel good' film of VIFF 2017.

In his review in Variety, Nick Schager writes ...

Thanks to its director Petra Volpe's sturdy guidance and Leuenberger's fine lead performance as Nora, whose resolve is coloured by doubt and trepidation, The Divine Order never feels stilted or preachy; rather, it radiates an infectious admiration for the courage shown by its heroines in the face of immense obstacles.

Giorgia del Don, in her review in Cineuropa, seems quite swept away by The Divine Order ...

Perhaps (very probably more likely) not everyone knows that calm Switzerland, tucked away in the heart of Europe, was one of the last countries in the world to introduce female suffrage. And indeed it is only since 1971 that women have had the right to vote and the possibility of being elected at federal level. So it is this long-kept "secret" that Petra Volpe decided to bring to the big screen in The Divine Order, continuing the interest in women that she has shown since the beginning of her career.

The Divine Order brings us back to the tragic nature of those opposing the right to vote for Swiss women. Nora (played by the magnificent Marie Leuenberger) embodies a very Swiss sense of discretion that hides an inner volcano just waiting to erupt and let loose a river of slow-moving but relentless lava.

A refreshing cocktail and essential cocktail that brings to light an underhand and sadly still very real discriminatory mechanism (in lots of countries) based on supposed and dangerous "divine" rules. Without ever falling into rhetoric but actually succeeding in making the whole film glide along on an unexpected freshness, Petra Volpe speaks to us about courage, a sentiment that women, and not only Swiss women, have too long ignored the meaning of but actually have plenty of. A jubilant and timeless film with no borders.

Well, that's it for today's VanRamblings' post. Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:08 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 16, 2017

VIFF 2017: Award Winning Cinema Set to Screen in Vancouver

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival

In 2017, the Vancouver International Film Festival will screen 26 award-winning films — Grand Prix, Jury, Audience, Critics and Best Film Awards, along with films boasting Best Director, Actress, Actor and Best Screenplay accolades — arriving on our shores from the Berlin, Tokyo, Melbourne, Seattle, Cannes, Shanghai, Venice, Dubai, Tribeca, Locarno, Rotterdam, Edinburgh, Taipei and Sundance Film Festivals.

If you're compiling a list of 2017 VIFF must-sees, the award-winning films VanRamblings will write about over the course of the next 12 days must be given your due consideration. We'll tell you about what awards these films won (and where), present trailers where available, and excerpt reviews from a variety of reliable critics' sources, ranging from Screen Daily, IndieWire, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to The Playlist, The Guardian and The Telegraph, among other trusted review sources.

Winner of the prestigious Palme D'or at Cannes 2017, and having just taken TIFF 2017 by storm, according to British film critic Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, Swedish director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) presents a "sprawling and daringly surreal satire that turns a contemporary art museum into a city-state of bizarre and Ballardian strangeness. High wire cinema that sets out to make your jaw drop, The Square succeeds."

Here are excerpts from reviews of The Square coming out Cannes ...

  • Jessica Kiang, The Playlist. The Square's scathing sensibility remains a constant, dark delight, a schadenfreude boomerang set in the rarefied reaches of Sweden's art world that snip by snip, in scenarios dripping with acidly observed discomfort, clips precisely through the barbed-wire barrier fences of culture, sophistication and socialization that refined middle-class modern humans erect between our public selves and our private, animal natures;

  • Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter. A potent, disturbing work that explores the boundaries of political correctness, artistic liberty and free speech in provocative ways. Östlund digs into the matter, a virtuoso chef driven to try increasingly wild combinations of spices and ingredients, in a tale told through the perspective of a sophisticated, highly educated and instinctively liberal art museum curator, the story unfolding with humour, vivid light, social commentary and nuance, with Swedish dialogue spiked with a good bit of English;

  • Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage. An acerbic, sphincter-tightening dark comedy that works as a sort of drawn-out spiritual castration for its über chic Stockholm art curator protagonist, Östlund's film is about our relationship with art, but it's also about class, masculinity, and the psychological consequences of inaction (perhaps the key Östlund theme). More specifically it's about the way we project in modern society and that awful fear we all share that the person we present to the world might not be who we really are.

Perhaps not everyone's cup o' tea (but one doesn't attend VIFF to screen Disneyfied cinema), The Square is Sweden's Best Foreign Film nominee.

Watch the trailer for Summer 1993, above. See. The Vancouver International Film Festival isn't always about challenging avant-garde cinema. Winner of Best First Feature at Berlin 17 for tyro Spanish director Carla Simón, Summer 1993 relates the efforts of a six year-old trying to cope with grief, but it is with maturity, empathy and heartfelt emotion that the film conveys the uncertain reality that follows. Screen Daily's Sarah Ward writes ...

  • Simón's début is both tender and determined as it relates the tale of a young orphan trying to fit in with a new family, the film full of affectionate but yearning sentiment, the wise-beyond-her-years protagonist Frida knowing she wants something other than a struggling existence in the shadow of grief, as she tackles her situation with a practical and resilient outlook, peering at everything in sight with a clear but questioning gaze that constantly holds the viewer's attention. Disarmingly engaging and utterly authentic, Simón's début feature is loving in appearance as it handles even the most painful of emotions.

Here are two more reviews of Summer 1993 ...

  • Jay Weissberg, Variety. Cinematographer Santiago Racaj treats his camera as a living, breathing observer, often viewing the world at Frida's level. More people share the little girl's frame as the film progresses, though she often still remains a solitary figure, looking out at her new, disorienting rural surroundings with uncertainty. For the viewer though, summer's verdant abundance and long daylight hours are comforting rather than oppressive, and while the film is set in 1993, paralleling Simón's own experience, the production design avoids making the period feel too distant.

  • Jonathan Holland. The Hollywood Reporter. A delicately crafted and moving filmic memoir by Carla Simón, Summer 1993 draws deeply on personal recollection, every frame of this story about a 6-year old girl sent to live with her uncle and aunt following the death of her parents, the film imparts events with a directness and detail that is underpinned throughout by its performances, particularly those of the children. Childhood memoirs always are under threat from self-indulgence and sentimentality, but 1993 successfully sidesteps both, establishing Summer 1993's performers as future talents to watch. Palpable with emotion, and filmed with a fly-on-the-wall spontaneity Summer 1993 offers honest, authentic and captivating cinema from beginning to end, in a terrific, soulful feature début for Catalan director Simón.

This sleeper hit at Berlin is unlikely to return to our shores. Either you see it at VIFF 2017, or you risk missing Summer 1993 altogether.

Winner of Best Fiction Feature at the Dubai Film Festival, Kurdish director Hussein Hassan's Reşeba: The Dark Wind also closed out the 21st Busan Film Festival with his ambitious film about the 2014 Yazidi genocide in Iraqi Kurdistan. Elizabeth Kerr in The Hollywood Reporter writes ...

The Yazidi, an ethnically Kurdish religious community with roots dating back to Mesopotamia, are one of Iraq's most culturally distinct communities. As such, they are also considered devil worshippers by ISIS, which commenced a brutal campaign to eliminate them in 2014. The story starts in the Shingal region, with the happy engagement of Yazidi soldier Reko (director-actor Rekesh Shabaz) and Pero (Diman Zandi, luminous), a union blessed by both families.

The relative tranquility of the village is shattered when ISIS troops swoop in one day, razing the town to the ground, shooting resistant men, burning symbols of culture and raising an Islamic State flag in place of the Kurdish one. During the firefight, Pero hides with several other women, but they are found by ISIS and promptly taken from their home and trafficked. Shabaz infuses Reko with a determined gait and thousand-yard stare that masks inner conflict, but it's Zandi — in her quietest moments — that makes the horrors of war most vivid. Filled with agony and dread, Reşeba: The Dark Wind is harrowing yet redemptive filmmaking.

Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic for Screen Daily concludes her review, writing ...

Pero is lost in the mayhem, captured and sold in a street market; Reko, who escapes to the camp, pursues her with a quiet determination. The rescue of the traumatized Pero, movingly played by Zandi, is not the end of her problems, however, and although the Yazidis have "forgiven" the 5,000-odd captured women of their tribe, not all of the community elders fall into line. "They abuse and rape our women and sell them back to us," comments one tribesman. "They are more dead than alive."

Hassan and cinematographer Touraj Aslani favour wide shots of the Iraqi landscape and the camps which the Yazidis now call home, and begin to look more permanent throughout the film. This is a rare opportunity to see this part of the world framed in a dramatic scenario, and Reşeba: The Dark Wind is quietly authentic throughout, with Hassan restricting even the music to let his sad love story express the emotions of this desolated community.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:44 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 14, 2017

Navigating VIFF 2017: films, tickets, venues, food, transit & more

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival

It's that very special time of year again, when the première arts event of the year — in this case the 36th annual edition of the entirely spectacular and humane Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) — is set to get underway, replete with 365+ films from more than 70 countries, commencing two weeks from today, on Thursday, September 28th, the festival set to run for the next 15 days through until Friday, October 13th.

VIFF is best approached like a planned climb of a massive mountain: with preplanning galore, for which eventuality VIFF provides some cursory advice, explained and explicated by VanRamblings in more detail below.

Best Actress Oscar winner Isabelle Huppert stars in Michael Haneke's new film, Happy End

What movies to choose?

On viff.org, you'll find films organized by the following major programmes:

Panorama: Comprised of galas and special presentations, contemporary world cinema, and the Spotlight on France and documentary programmes;

Sea to Sky: A showcase of the inspired works emerging from creative film artists residing and/or filming in our home province of British Columbia;

True North: A celebration of the extraordinary creativity and craft by Canadian storytellers from coast to coast to coast;

Gateway: Providing a journey into the compelling cinematic worlds envisioned by East Asia's most adventurous artists.

In addition, the smaller and more acutely focused film series include M/A/D (music, art & design), the Impact series (social activism), ALT (the international 'altered states' genre programme), and Youth (a programme catering to high school students, meant to foster imaginations, inspire, educate and entertain).

As always, a number of VIFF films will be returning to theatres for regular runs post-festival. When you look at the programme (free and widely available across Metro Vancouver), if there's a Canadian distributor in place for the film, you can bet the film will return sooner rather than later.

There'll also be a number of guests (actors, directors, producers) who'll attend VIFF this year to present their films. It can be both fun and enlightening to see these films during VIFF for added cinematic insight.

Apart from the Galas and Special Presentations, the vast majority of films in VIFF's 2017 programme are meant to appeal to smaller audiences, comprising independent world cinema which won't find its way back to our shores. See these films at VIFF in 2017, or miss them for all time.

How and where do I buy tickets?

You can buy tickets or passes online at viff.org and print your tickets at home. Note that there is a service charge for online and phone orders: $1 per single ticket, up to $4 per order. Before the festival opens, tickets can be bought in person at the Vancity Theatre on Seymour (at Davie) from noon until 7pm. Once the festival is underway, all festival venues (The Centre for the Performing Arts, The Cinematheque, Cineplex Odeon International Village, the Rio Theatre, SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Performing Arts, the Vancity Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse) will act as festival box offices.

Ticket packages and passes are a great cost-saving idea. More information may be found at viff.org.

The real steal for those on a budget (think seniors) who love film, and want to bliss out at VIFF 2017? Consideration should be given to purchasing the Weekday Matinee Pass, for only $160, which if you were to plan your filmgoing properly would enable you to see all films up until 5:50pm Monday through Friday, translating into 48 (or more) screenings during the festival period, at just a bit more than $3 per film!

Throughout the Festival, VIFF offers a customer service line, open daily 9am to 7pm, staffed by friendly and informed volunteers, who can answer any of your questions. Simply call 604-683-FILM (3456) for assistance.

VIFF volunteer staff always helpful and ready to offer assistance to those waiting in line

What about all those lines outside the theatres?

Each VIFF screening will have three separate queues: a pass-holder line, a ticket-holders line and a rush or standby line. Standby tickets, for screenings that are sold out, go on sale 10 minutes before showtime, at full price (cash preferred). No matter which line you're in, arrive at least 30 minutes early, particularly if you're picky about where you sit.

What about food and drink?

Though most VIFF venues serve the usual popcorn/candy/soft drinks fare, some have a few extras (there's wine at the Vancity, and beer and wine at The Rio), while Cineplex International Village sports a wealth of restaurants.

Outside food & drink is officially not allowed in the theatrse, but VIFF-goers have been known to get away with it; be discreet, considerate and tidy.

The best way to get around at VIFF: walk or take Translink

What about parking and bus routes?

VIFF is pretty much a no-car zone — transit is definitely the way to go. Still, there's free parking available at Cineplex International Village for VIFF patrons, with a fair bit of parking in the area around The Rio. Otherwise, you're best taking advantage of Vancouver's transit system, or walking.

Daniela Vega stars in Sebastián Lelio's A Fantastic Woman

What movies should I choose? Part Deux

The can't miss films at VIFF this year include ...

Call Me by Your Name: Sundance's smash summer idyll tracks a young man's sexual awakening in the Italian Riviera of 1983;

The Florida Project: Director Sean Baker's Cannes favourite tells the compassionate underclass story of six-year-old Moonee who spends her days both dodging and creating trouble;

The Square: Ruben Östlund's Cannes 2017 funny and utterly humane Palme d'Or winner takes aim at the pomposity and hypocrisy of artists;

A Fantastic Woman: Rising Chilean director Sebastián Lelio celebrates the endurance of a woman under suspicion of murder in a film that could bring the first major acting award for a transgender performer to Daniela Vega;

BPM (Beats Per Minute): The Grand Prix at Cannes this year went to director Robin Campillo's wrenching, deeply humanistic look at the early-'90s war on AIDS;

Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev's devastating new drama, Loveless

Loveless: Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's ice-cold masterpiece delivers a desolate image of Russia's middle class, ruled by selfishness, envy, anger & anxiety, in a story told with riveting sincerity and nuance;

Meditation Park: Vancouver's Mina Shum's textured, tender, reflective and charismatic portrait of first and second generation immigrant life.

Michael Haneke's Happy End set to take VIFF 2017 by storm

Also keep your eye out for director Michael Haneke's follow-up to his Oscar-winning film Amour in a return to form (read: sinister grand tragedy) with Happy End, which is taking TIFF by storm; plus Best Foreign Film entries, Germany's In The Fade starring Diane Kruger who won Best Actress at Cannes this year and Switzerland's The Divine Order, an Audience Award winner at Tribeca about the Swiss suffragette movement.

In the coming days, VanRamblings will present a detailed preview analysis of three films — most days — that are scheduled to play at VIFF, beginning this Saturday concluding just before the Festival proper gets underway on Thursday, September 28th. The previews and excerpted capsule reviews we'll have on offer have been gleaned from superlative critic raves coming out of Telluride / Cannes / Locarno / Berlin / Toronto / Seattle / Los Angeles / New York / London / Venice / Sundance / Tribeca / SXSW.

VanRamblings will publish trailers where available, and as above include excerpts of reviews from The Guardian and The Telegraph, Screen Daily, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Playlist, The Film Stage, New York Magazine (The Vulture), CineVue, Paste Magazine, Consequence of Sound, The Village Voice, and other trusted review sources.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:16 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 29, 2016

VIFF 2016: VIFF movie mania is upon us

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

It's that time again — Vancouver's yearly 16-day immersion in films from across the globe.

The 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival is as always a daunting prospect. This year's edition of VIFF, which begins today and runs through until Friday October 14th, will screen 365+ films, including 219 full-length features, from 70 different countries.

Here are some tips on navigating it.

Programme, tickets and venues

As you get ready for a cinematic onslaught, you'll want to pick up a copy of the glossy 2016 VIFF programme, available at no charge all across Metro Vancouver, at the Vancity Theatre, as well as at libraries, bookstores and coffee shops.

2016 Vancouver International Film Festival Programme Guide

You can skip the box office lines and buy your tickets online at viff.org, or simply by pressing on the buy option when choosing of a film of interest to you, and then simply print the ticket at home. Note that there is a service charge for online orders: $1 per single ticket, up to $4 per order. Patrons can save by purchasing ticket packs or all-access screening passes.

Tickets or passes can be bought in person at the Vancity Theatre, or at any of the Festival venues: The Centre for the Performing Arts, The Cinematheque, the Rio Theatre, SFU's Goldcorp Centre, the Vancouver Playhouse or Cineplex International Village. The box offices will be open daily, one half-hour before the day's first screening.

Throughout the Festival, VIFF offers a helpful customer service line, open daily 9am to 7pm, staffed by friendly and informed volunteers, who can answer any of your questions. Simply call 604-683-FILM (3456) for assistance.

What about all those lines?

Each VIFF screening will have three separate queues: a pass-holder line (for those with passes hanging around their necks; you'll know them when you see them), a ticket-holders line (for those who've purchased tickets in advance, and have the tickets in hand) and a rush line. Standby tickets, for screenings that are sold out, go on sale 10 minutes before showtime, at full price (cash preferred). No matter which line you're in, arriving at least 30 minutes early — or for popular screenings (the VIFF website will let you know which screenings are popular and almost sold-out) is a good idea, particularly if you're picky about where you sit.

Food and drink, parking, bus routes

Though most VIFF venues serve the usual popcorn/candy/soft drinks fare, some have a few extras (there's wine at the Vancity, and beer and wine at The Rio, for example). Most venues have a wealth of restaurants just steps from the door.

Outside food and drink is officially not allowed in the theatres, but VIFF-goers have been known to get away with it; be discreet, considerate and tidy (and, please, please, do not eat during the course of a film screening).

VIFF is pretty much a no-car zone — transit is definitely the way to go. Still, there's free parking available at Cineplex International Village for VIFF patrons, with a fair bit of parking in the area around The Rio. Otherwise, you're best taking advantage of Vancouver's transit system. Typing m.translink.ca into your smartphone browser will give you all the information you need to navigate between venues.

What movies should I choose?

There is always something new to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Many of the 365+ films have already screened elsewhere, though, either in their home countries or at other festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Telluride, Locarno and Venice, among other far flung places across the globe.

As a service to readers, for the past nine days, VanRamblings has published previews of award-winning and lauded films that have been scheduled as a part of VIFF 2016. Just click here to read 36+ previews of celebrated VIFF feature films (most with trailers, all with reviews from erudite critics).

Several of these titles — among them Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea; Jim Jarmusch's Paterson; Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake; Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman; Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper; Jean and Luc Dardennes' The Unknown Girl; Paul Verhoeven's Elle; and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight will look to build on their enthusiastic early acclaim. All of these films have been previewed by VanRamblings.

Another one, Nate Parker's Sundance prizewinner The Birth of a Nation, although it has become a lightning rod for controversy given director Nate Parker's 1999 sexual assault charge, promises an unflinching look at slavery, and emerges as a must-see at VIFF 2016.

And those are just the movies everyone recognizes and talks about. That the Festival programme contains still more multitudes - that it counts short masterworks, below-the-radar genre items and avant-garde mind-blowers among its essential offerings each year is a fact that can sometimes be lost amidst the deafening reams of Oscar hype that can issue forth throughout the fall season.

A massive annual confluence of art and industry, as well as a cinematic buffet of tremendous cultural and aesthetic diversity, is invariably reduced to just a handful of heat-seeking titles.

As much as we may look forward to the more lauded VIFF entries, many of which will reach our local multiplex in the weeks and months to come, there are many more VIFF films worth seeking out than the films VanRamblings has highlighted in our nine-day preview. But when a Festival boasts nearly 365+ films to choose from, a critic must start somewhere.

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, lineup of the Vancity Theatre


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:33 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 28, 2016

VIFF 2016: Paradise on the Near Horizon

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Despite the obstructive jaundice diagnosis VanRamblings wrote about yesterday, we do not have pancreatic cancer. Phew! Spent the day in the hospital yesterday undergoing a series of tests, and am scheduled for surgery tomorrow, on the opening day of the 35th annual the Vancouver International Film Festival, and will continue to write daily about VIFF through the end of the this year's Festival, on Friday, October 14th.

So, it is on to the final three previews of lauded films that will arrive on our shores beginning tomorrow in what is a very strong year for VIFF.

Before we get started today, this: Andrew Poon, long one of VanRamblings favourite Communications folks with VIFF — this year working with the very wonderful Owen Campbell, and the doyenne of all things Communication with VIFF, Helen Yagi — wrote yesterday to say that there are six Asian films — all part of the Gateway | Dragons & Tigers series — he believes are worthy of your attention, so take note — Andrew is never wrong ...

  • Crosscurrent. Winner of Best Cinematography in Berlin this year, director Yang Chao brings a beautifully shot film perfect for cinephiles to VIFF this year, Andrew says. Writes Patrick Gamble in Cinevue, "Traversing China, from the riches of Shanghai's financial hub, to the nation's impoverished hinterlands, Yang combines a daring mix of realism and lyrical fantasy to create a sense of where China is drifting, merging imagery and poetry to create a film of uncontrollable sadness, arresting visuals and ruminative grace;

  • Out of the Frying Pan, a phantasmagoria of six dazzling anime shorts, ranging from powerful evocations of earthquakes and tsunamis to scenes from the life of a girl whose mother is a ghost and whose father is a cat (which, by the way, won the Grand Prix award at the 2016 Image Forum Festival), conceptually brilliant works all, and very much deserving of your consideration;

  • Lifeline. Making its North American premiere, Japanese director Shiota Akihiko will be in attendance at VIFF to present his new film, a slapstick, bloody battle between mortality and immortality, and a darkly comedic exploration of the depths one person will sink to save herself and the lengths another will go to in order to lose himself;

  • The Bacchus Lady. No, this film by E Jyong is not about our indefatigable Vancouver School Board trustee, the fabulous Patti Bacchus, but rather is a tour de force from the grand dame of Korean cinema, 69-year-old Youn Yuh-jung, who delivers a powerful performance as a sex worker confronting her and her ex-patron's problems in old age, in a graceful film that while exploring a bounty of taboo subjects provides an engaging picture of the lonely lives of people considered by society as past their sell-by date. Says Clarence Tsui in his review in The Hollywood Reporter, "The Bacchus Lady is certainly audacious, and a powerful reminder of how lives could or would be lived once the youthful vigor is gone";

  • Emma (Mother). An International premiere at VIFF 2016, Indonesian director Riri Riza (who will be in attendance this weekend at VIFF, along with the producer) to present his new film, an adaptation of Alberthiene Endah's novel Athirah, which focuses on social, political, sexual and psychological issues centering on questions of emotional and moral strength, says longtime Dragons & Tigers programmer Tony Rayns, who goes on to say, "Emma (Mother) is infused with Riza's signature lyrical realism, wise and humane as it deals with Athirah's stoic efforts to keep herself and her family together";

  • The Road to Mandalay. Debuting at the Venice Film Festival at the beginning of this month, Chinese-Burmese director Midi Z's Bangkok-set drama revolves around the loves, fears and loathing of two migrant workers in the Thai capital, the film an engrossing drama that works on an intimate level of moving human tragedy while providing insight into the travails that face the Burmese people. Say Vittorio Scarpa in his review in Cineuropa, "A blunt and accurate portrayal of the condition of the many Burmese migrants living in Thailand, searching for opportunities that often end in disaster, based on a number of true stories (among them, the story of the director's brother), Road to Mandalay shows us how the world, when it comes to problems of integration, is extraordinarily small."

Six more films for you to consider as VIFF film fare in 2016.

A Copy of My Mind. Comes highly recommended from VanRamblings' friend Mathew Englander who saw A Copy of My Mind at TIFF, and wrote to us to rave about it. Says Jason Bechervaise in his review in Screen Daily ...

"Prominent Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar (The Forbidden Door) sets his new film in Jakarta, telling the story of young couple who fall in love but end up in trouble when the woman steals a DVD from a client. Both affecting and absorbing in equal measure, A Copy of My Mind shirks melodrama to explore the difficulties faced by those living in a city marred by political corruption. Conveys the political and social turmoil faced by so many in Jakarta through the eyes of the two protagonists, it's the pair's genuine and natural abilities that give the film more than a touch of authenticity and sincerity."

Next on to this year's Un Certain Regard winner at Cannes ...

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki. Finnish newcomer Juho Kuosmanen chronicles the buildup to the 1962 world featherweight championship title match in this idiosyncratic boxing drama that is, as Sarah Ward says in her review in Screen Daily, "contemplative, inspirational and sweet rather than brutal and action-packed, a quietly charming film that will punch above its weight on its way to finding a broader audience." Tender, lyrical and bittersweet, as Guy Lodge says in his review in Variety, "It punches its way into the upper ranks of cinematic pugilist portraits by virtue of its exquisite craft and a lead performance of heart-bruising melancholy by Jarkko Lahti."

The Salesman. Iran's Best Foreign Film Oscar entry, Asghar Farhadi, the masterly Iranian director of Oscar winner A Separation offers another finely cut gem of neorealist suspense, Irish Times critic Donald Barnes writing, "The Salesman is flawlessly acted. Ordinary-looking people pass through huge emotions without ever resulting to histrionics. Outbreaks of violence are rare and, thus, when they do occur, they are all the more shocking, Farhadi once again trading in the poetry of the unsaid." Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman writes ...

"The film's title refers to an amateur production of Death of a Salesman that the film's two central characters are both performing in. He's playing Willy Loman, and she plays his wife, the beleaguered Linda. It's a conceit that comes off as something of a contrivance — at least, until the very end, when the parallel between Emad and Willy at last hits home. They are good men who, through the tragedy of their choices, wind up letting down the people they love. Farhadi has fashioned a dramatic critique of what he portrays as the Iranian male gaze — a gaze of molten judgment and anger. As a filmmaker, though, his gaze is true."

And thus concludes VanRamblings 36+ film preview of the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

A coda: broadcasting legend and longtime VIFF aficionado J.B. Shayne called yesterday to say that he feels a screening of Jim Jarmusch's documentary Gimme Danger is mandatory viewing VIFF 2016, for any one who has any appreciation of rock history and who loves Iggy Pop and The Stooges. Mr. Shayne will be present at the sure-to-be-raucous 9:15pm screening at The Rio on VIFF's opening night, Thursday, September 29th. Betcha his friend John Tanner will be there, as well.

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VanRamblings has now previewed 36+ acclaimed VIFF films that are about to arrive on our shores having garnered critical acclaim at film festivals in every far flung community across the globe. For a survey of all the VIFF films VanRamblings has previewed for VIFF 2016, just click here.



Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:15 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 27, 2016

VIFF 2016: Hey, Is VanRamblings Checking Out, Or ...

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Almost every year as the Vancouver International Film Festival is about to get underway, or has just started, something happens to prejudice VanRamblings' attendance at the festival. In 1992, VanRamblings collapsed at the back of The Cinematheque while watching a screening of Michael Haneke's Benny's Video, which we'd already seen in preview, but wanted to see again. VanRamblings was rushed to UBC Hospital where we spent two weeks watching the U.S. election on TV, and Bill Clinton's performances in the debates. For the most part, VanRamblings missed VIFF that year.

In 2004, VanRamblings attempted to take in an early Sunday morning screening of a film at The Cinematheque, and while parking our car were rear-ended by a late model SUV — we were almost killed. Once we got out of the hospital, we returned to VIFF, standing at the back of the various VIFF cinemas (we couldn't sit) to enjoy the latter half of VIFF that year.

This year — according to our doc, we've been diagnosed with something called obstructive jaundice, the root causes of which we'll discover upon attending UBC Hospital on Tuesday for an emergency battery of tests. Wondering why there was no VanRamblings column yesterday? We were simply too weak. Before week's end VanRamblings' very able physician has indicated that we'll have a definitive diagnosis of the root cause of the current malady, and will take whatever correction action is required.

How many films will VanRamblings get to see at VIFF 2016, and how many columns will we be able to write over the 16-day course of the Festival?

Time and health will tell.

After Love. Belgian director Joaquim Lafosse brought his stunner Our Children to VIFF a couple of years back. In 2016, VIFF brings Lafosse's new, Cannes-debuting family drama After Love — starring the can do no wrong Bérénice Bejo, co-star of the Academy Award winning film, Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist — to our 35th annual Festival by the sea.

Says Wendy Ide in Screen Daily ...

"After Love presents an unflinching portrait of the final weeks of a marriage. Fifteen years worth of simmering grudges about sock laundry have boiled over, the battle lines have been drawn in the house that they are still forced to share, and the time they spend with their twin daughters is neatly apportioned between them. A relationship which is largely built on recriminations and point scoring is a dispiriting thing to witness, and this is certainly a tough watch at times. But it is a compelling drama, with its strong performances and adult themes.

While Lafosse scrupulously avoids taking sides in the break up, it is hard to muster much sympathy for either party. Captured with a handheld camera that prowls around their contested living space like a caged animal, the atmosphere is charged with petty sniping, the atmosphere undeniably sad, with moments of discomfort, where the tensions crackle and the fault lines in the bedrock of the marriage become clear."

Says Peter Debruge in Variety, "As in Our Children, observing how the characters respond to a song reveals far more than any amount of dialogue could, and as Marie and Boris (Cédric Kahn) humour their daughters, we see the love they once shared for one another and realize why it's so hard to break free from its shackles."

All This Panic. One of the buzz films coming out of the Tribeca Film Festival this year, Jenny Gage's intimate documentary portrait of female youth has been called evocative, ethnographic, raw and heartwarming, engaging and reminiscent of the Maysles Brothers' work, Gage and her husband and director of photography, Tom Betterton, appreciative of the girls' beauty, employing magic-hour light throughout, bathing the film's subjects in a soft glow, the filmmakers far more interested in the girls' inner lives.

Says Elise Nakhnikian in Slant Magazine ...

"Loosely tracked over a three-year period as they hang out, play games, throw drunken parties, and interact with their families, the girls talk constantly, and they have insightful and touching things to say about friendship, their hopes for the future, love, sex, and more. The intensity and volatility of young female friendships surface in the relationship between loyal, grounded Lena and high-strung, unhappy Ginger, who start out as best friends, but go through a rocky period after Lena heads off to college and Ginger stays home, where she works and hangs out with a new group of friends.

There are also poignant glimpses into the girls' family lives. A moment of intimacy between Ginger and her little sister, Dusty, on a rooftop is so resonant because we've heard Dusty confess that she wishes she had a closer relationship with the standoffish Ginger. Meanwhile, Ginger's defensiveness and quick temper may be due at least partly to the prickly relationship she has with her father, who can't seem to find a kind word to say to or about her.

Every scene in All This Panic feels vivid and true, in this honest, impressionistic portrait of a cohort of 21st-century American girls."

All This Panic offers a fierce, sure-footed and remarkably intimate portrait.

Goldstone. From director Ivan Sen, Australia's premier filmmaker of aboriginal descent, says Luke Buckmaster in his five-star review in The Guardian, "Goldstone is a masterpiece of outback noir that packs a political punch ...

"... the film belonging to a suite of Australian films that contemplate land ownership in memorable ways, from 1932's On Our Selection to 1950's Bitter Springs and even 1997's The Castle, Goldstone has more weight than any of them, because the film's spiritual roots hark back to the traditional owners of the land. In a small but moving role David Gulpilil plays a man who cannot be bought; his soul is connected to the ground and the sky."

Says Eddie Cockrell in his review in Variety, "The sun is hot, the motives are cold and the film is blazingly noir as Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns for another investigation of Outback moral rot in multi-hyphenate helmer Ivan Sen's socially conscious, supremely accomplished procedural thriller, a film unequalled in contemporary Aussie cinema."

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VanRamblings has now previewed 27+ acclaimed VIFF films that are about to arrive on our shores having garnered critical acclaim at film festivals in every far flung community across the globe. Previous VanRamblings' VIFF 2016 columns, very much like the one today, may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:54 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 25, 2016

VIFF 2016: Oh My Love, I've Hungered for Your Kiss

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The Vancouver International Film Festival's particular mix of glamour and discovery merge each year during the much-looked-forward-to 16 day festival, attracting hundreds of film people and the glitterati to the Opening Gala party, while at the same time screening 219 feature films from 70 countries, including as many as 20 of the 75 submissions for the foreign language Academy Award, and 140 short and medium length films. Last year more than 150,000 people attended VIFF, making it one of the top film festivals for attendance in the country. From the end of September through until mid-October each year, VIFF is simply the place to be, a cultural must.

Today VanRamblings continues our cinematic investigation of films we think you should place on your VIFF must-see list ...

Julieta. Perhaps lesser Almodóvar, but even lesser Almodóvar is far superior to what you'll see onscreen at your local multiplex throughout most of the year. Pedro Almodóvar is 66, his latest film reflective of the darker themes that increasingly bedevil us as we age. Not light and airy Almodóvar. but not over-serious Almodóvar, either. Even given all the foofaraw, Screen Daily's Chief Film Critic Fionnuala Halligan finds much to recommend ...

"Pedro Almodóvar's 20th feature is a tantalising creature full of hints and omens, a Hitchcockian drama, the story one of loss and grief, this adaptation of three short stories by Canadian writer Alice Munro carefully stitched together into an elusive film, Alberto Iglesias' humming contrapuntal score contributing much to a story given over to sorrow, the film a sad, grieving counterpart to the brazen antics of Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, where the possibility of hope still entices."

Says Rory O'Connor in Filmstage, "Riffing on Spanish telenovelas, Hitchcock, and film noir, Almodóvar has put together an undeniably gorgeous bauble with a simple sort of story that nestles in somewhere between the high and lowbrow. Ugarte and Suárez might have made for great Hitchcock heroines. They certainly make great chicas for Almodóvar."

Adriana Ugarte, who stars in Pedro Almodóvar's new film, JulietaThat's the beauteous Adriana Ugarte above, beseeching you to take in a screening of Julieta.

Paterson. The buzz out of Cannes for writer-director Jim Jarmusch's newest film was through the roof, critics referring to the film's restrained aesthetic and Adam Driver's sublime, understated performance (with much talk of Adam Driver garnering a Best Actor Oscar nod come January 24th 2017) rendering it the director's most recognizably human and poignant film to date. Says Jessica Kiang in her review in The Playlist ...

"Jim Jarmusch's Paterson is like a balm to soothe your aching limbs, quell your clamoring mind and restore your tired spirit. An unfeasibly charming film full of little wisdoms and quiet comforts where we might expect to find provocations, its only deception is that it is so much richer than it seems at first glance. Most cinephiles are well acquainted with Jarmusch-ian minimalism, and the trick of reading more into his droll silences and laconic pauses than exists up on the screen. But, even aside from a difference in tone which favours sincerity over irony, and warmth over cleverness, this is something else: this is miniaturism. Paterson is a tiny little film, sharp in every detail, but minuscule, like a portrait on a grain of rice. And sometimes the smaller you go, the more colossal your impact, which means Paterson might just be Jim Jarmusch's God Particle."

Or, how about John Bleasdale's over-the-moon review in Cine-Vue ...

"No ideas but in things" wrote William Carlos Williams, the patron saint of Jim Jarmusch's sumptuous sonnet to poetry and ordinariness, Paterson. The film presents us with a week in the life of bus driver and lunchtime poet Paterson (Adam Driver). In many way, Paterson's life is idyllic. He is deeply, almost boyishly in love with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani); his work, given he's a bus driver, is remarkably stress-free and gives him plenty of time to think. Like Frank O'Hara, he writes his poetry in his breaks and before his shift. Sure enough we glimpse O'Hara's Lunch Poems anthology in the driver's cab.

There's a shot of Paterson holding a book of William Carlos Williams' poetry which is so sensual and tactile — the heft of the book in the hand, the feel of the paper cover — it will make any lover of books toss their e-readers in the bin. Drama does show up, but Jarmusch wisely sidesteps it. Marvin the bulldog is as bad an enemy as Paterson has to face and he's adorable."

One of the can't miss films at VIFF this year, and another must-see.

After The Storm. From the VIFF programme guide, "Over the years, VIFF has been proud to present the work of Kore-eda Hirokazu. Festival favourites like I Wish (VIFF '11) and Like Father, Like Son (VIFF '13) have touched audiences with their warmth and tenderness, their keen understanding of the way families come together and come apart. This year the Japanese master returns with this bittersweet take on life's rewards and disappointments. From Deborah Young's Hollywood Reporter review ...

"The story is beautifully balanced between gentle comedy and the melancholy reality of how people really are. A young divorced dad tries to get back into the good graces of his ex-wife and son in After the Storm, a classic Japanese family drama of gentle persuasion and staggering simplicity from Kore-eda Hirokazu. This bittersweet peek into the human comedy has a more subtle charm than flashier films like the director's child-swapping fable Like Father, Like Son, but the filmmaking is so exquisite and the acting so calibrated it stays with you."

No-one goes into a Kore-eda Hirokazu film expecting dynamite and runaway trucks. But even long-standing fans of the Japanese filmmaker (and in Vancouver, there are many) may be taken aback by the supreme subtlety of his latest, achingly beautiful ode to the quiet complexities of family life.

The Unknown Girl. Palme d'Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne can do no wrong, their films always subtle and compassionate evocations of the human spirit. From Guy Lodge's review in Variety, "Adèle Haenel joins the rich tradition of superb lead performances in Dardennes-directed dramas, their tenth feature The Unknown Girl offering a film noir, in a thoroughly dressed-down, cleanly lit and most satisfying way."

Or, from Lee Marshall's review in Screen Daily ...

"Haenel's character Jenny looks like a lost little girl at times, but her medical bravura is never in doubt. We first see her with her stethoscope to a patient's back — one of many scenes that manages to stay grounded in realism while saying something more, here to do with the way we interpret the signals people send out. Jenny is tormented by the thought that if she had opened that door to the young African immigrant who had visited her clinic late one night, the girl would still be alive, and it's this torment that powers the dramatic motor of a film that is about the burdens but also the healing potential of responsibility.

The Unknown Girl doesn't take the easy genre route, preferring to focus on the moral spring of Jenny's guilt, which as it uncoils, leads her not only into personal danger, but causes a blur between her doctor and detective roles that comes close to having fatal consequences."

Phew! Well, that's it for today. Four more VIFF films for you to consider.

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VanRamblings has now previewed 24 acclaimed VIFF films that are about to arrive on our shores having garnered critical acclaim at film festivals in every far flung community across the globe. Previous VanRamblings' VIFF 2016 columns, very much like the one today, may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:11 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 24, 2016

VIFF 2016: Four More Indelible Must-Sees

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

This year's broad selection of Vancouver International Film Festival films showcases award-winning films that wowed viewers at international festivals, presented to Vancouver audiences for the first time. Selections from Cannes include Ken Loach's Palme d'Or-winning I, Daniel Blake; Olivier Assayas's Personal Shopper and Cristian Mungiu's Graduation, which tied for Best Director; and Maren Ade's highly acclaimed Toni Erdmann, awarded the Cannes Critics' Prize. From Berlin, Gianfranco Rosi's Golden Bear winner, Fire at Sea, will mark the director's VIFF debut, and Mia Hansen-Løve returns to the Vancouver International Film Festival with her fourth outing Things to Come, which won her Berlin's Best Director award.

As we've written about I, Daniel Blake, Graduation & Fire at Sea previously, today VanRamblings will introduce you to Personal Shopper, Toni Erdmann and Things to Come, as well as Barry Jenkins' widely acclaimed Moonlight.

Personal Shopper. Kristen Stewart is the medium, in more ways than one, for this sophisticated genre exploration from director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria). As a fashion assistant whose twin brother has died, leaving her bereft and longing for messages from the other side, Stewart is fragile and enigmatic — and nearly always on-screen. From an opening sequence in a haunted house with an intricately constructed soundtrack to a high-tension, cat-and-mouse game on a trip from Paris to London and back set entirely to text messaging, Personal Shopper brings the psychological and supernatural thriller into the digital age.

Here's what The Guardian's lead film critic Peter Bradshaw had to say in his five star review of Personal Shopper ...

"... captivating, bizarre, tense, fervently preposterous and an almost unclassifiable scary movie from Olivier Assayas, the film delivers the bat-squeak of pure craziness that we long for at Cannes, although at the first screening some very tiresome people continued the festival's tradition of booing very good films.

Personal Shopper has that undefinable provocative élan that reminds me a little of Lars Von Trier's Breaking The Waves. It is actually Assayas' best film for a long time, and Stewart's best performance to date — she stars in a supernatural fashionista-stalker nightmare where the villain could yet be the heroine's own spiteful id. Is it The Devil Wears Prada meets The Handmaiden (also in Cannes, and at VIFF) with a touch of Single White Female?

Kristen Stewart's performance is tremendous: she is calm and blank in the self-assured way of someone very competent, smart and young, yet her displays of emotion are very real and touching. She is entirely devoted to her smartphone, which is to be the conduit of her fears and there is a dash of pure Hitchcockian brilliance in a scene where she turns it on and a backlog of texts starts mounting up, bringing danger ever closer. With his reckless, audacious Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas has brought excitement to the festival."

Peter DeBruge in his Variety review calls Personal Shopper "a spine-tingling horror story," while Indiewire's Eric Kohn writes, "Personal Shopper presents a fully realized universe that merges visceral dread with deeper observations about its causes," and Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells, and a surfeit of other films critics, are quite simply gaga over the film.

Toni Erdmann. The most divisive film to play at both the Berlin and Telluride film festivals, one of the best reviewed art films of the year, some folks loved it while others hated it.

Here's what Lee Marshall wrote in his Screen Daily review ...

"Surprising, awkward, refreshing and, at times, downright hilarious, German director Maren Ade's dazzlingly original follow-up to her 2009 Berlinale Silver Bear winner Everyone Else is that rarest of things: a nearly three-hour-long German-Austrian arthouse comedy-drama that (almost) never drags. Eliciting laughs and applause — in all the right places — at its Cannes press screening, this tale of a prankster father who uses practical jokes and disguises to rescue his adult daughter from the work-obsessed spiral of seriousness he feels she has sunk into also manages, without an ounce of schmaltz, to address big issues relating, among other themes, to a stressed, permanently online modern world where work is no longer something we leave behind at the office; how families communicate (or fail to); business ethics and sexism in the workplace."

Giovanni Marchini Camia writing in Filmstage gives Toni Erdmann a solid "A", writing, "This is a superb second feature well-deserving of Berlin's Jury Prize, one of the most stirring cinematic experiences of the year, immensely rewarding to witness, ferocious, dazzling, and a masterpiece."

Things To Come. One of VanRamblings favourite directors, in our books Mia Hansen-Løve can do no wrong, and a plethora of film critics would seem to share our sentiment in their reviews of her latest, Things to Come. Writing in Variety, Guy Lodge says ...

"Mia Hansen-Løve and Isabelle Huppert prove a dream partnership in the director's gorgeous, heart-cradling post-divorce drama. Huppert is such a persistently and prolifically rigorous performer that she risks being taken for granted in some of her vehicles, but this is a major, many-shaded work even by her lofty standards. Hansen-Løve's oeuvre has acquired its own signature character of light, with sunshine streaming through even exchanges of most disconsolate darkness; conversely, only in the film's contented, Brittany-set pre-credits prologue, set several years before a heartsore storm, do skies turn a flannelly grey. Hansen-Løve's musical selections surprise just as often with their note-perfect sympathy to the action at hand: A critical use of that old chestnut Unchained Melody — crooned here not by the Righteous Brothers, but by the Fleetwoods — reps a very different appropriation of another film's glory from the Kiarostami hat tip, but the outcome could hardly be lovelier."

That's all we're going to give you, no précis of the story, no more excerpts of reviews, but only, "Go see Things To Come; you won't be disappointed."

Moonlight. One of the must-sees at VIFF 2016, a certain Oscar contender, and one of the best-reviewed films of the year, Barry Jenkins' acclaimed tour-de-force, a Special VIFF Presentation, will screen only once, on Friday, October 7th, 9pm at The Centre for the Performing Arts.

We'll do something a little different this time: Here are few "A" reviews ...

  • The Guardian (5 stars), Benjamin Lee. Moonlight is a profoundly moving film about growing up as a gay man in disguise, a difficult and damaging journey that's realised with staggering care and delicacy and one that will resonate with anyone who has had to do the same. We're starved of these narratives and Jenkins' electrifying drama showcases why they are so hugely important, providing an audience with a rarely seen portrait of what it really means to be a black gay man in America today. It's a stunning achievement.

  • Screen Daily (A), Tim Grierson. An indelible portrait of an imperilled life, Moonlight is quietly devastating in its depiction of masculinity, race, poverty and identity. Ambitious in scope but precise in its execution, this deceptively small-scale character piece reverberates with compassion and insight.

  • The Hollywood Reporter (A), David Rooney. A haunting reflection on African-American masculinity, writer-director Barry Jenkins' intimate character study traces the life of a black gay man from his troubled Miami childhood to maturity, the film laced with superb and widely varied music choices that often play in illuminating contrast to the scene unfolding, the drama divided into three chapters unfolding during formative times of the central figure's life, the early scenes especially beautiful, the film filled with moments of swoon-inducing romance to equal those of suffering and solitude, Nicholas Britell's score melancholy and melodic, James Laxton's cinematography soaked in sleepy, sun-scorched light early on and then burnished, darker tones later, it would be tempting to call Moonlight an instant landmark in queer black cinema, if that didn't imply that the experience it portrays will speak only to a minority audience. Instead, this is a film that will strike plangent chords for anyone who has ever struggled with identity, or to find connections in a lonely world. It announces Jenkins as an important new voice.

And there we are. Four more indelible must-sees at VIFF 2016.

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VanRamblings has now previewed twenty acclaimed VIFF films that are about to arrive on our shores having garnered critical acclaim at film festivals across the globe. Previous VanRamblings' VIFF 2016 columns, very much like the one today, may be found here. Enjoy the read!



Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:25 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 23, 2016

VIFF 2016: More VIFF Greats, as the Hits Just Keep on Comin'

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The cinema is so many things at once. And when VanRamblings looked at the films in this year's VIFF selections, we became aware of the fact that it is a form of response. The Dardenne Brothers, Ken Loach, Cristian Mungiu, Gianfranco Rosi, and Kleber Mendonça Filho are sounding alarms, while Jim Jarmusch, Kenneth Lonergan, Barry Jenkins, Maren Ade and Olivier Assayas are fixed on internal landscapes, proclaiming the urgency of self-realization. What can also be seen in this year's Vancouver International Film Festival lineup is a bounty of vital work from artists from all around the world who will not stop until they see their visions all the way to the end.

Today on VanRamblings, four more outstanding VIFF films that are destined for greatness in the annals of human scale cinema.

The Birth of a Nation. Winner of the Audience and Grand Jury Prizes at the Sundance Film Festival this year, up until the emergence of the controversy surrounding the film's writer-director Nate Parker and his co-writer and friend Jean Celestin arising from 1999 sexual assault charges leveled against both, The Birth of a Nation was an odds-on favourite for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and perhaps a win. Now? Not so much. VIFF is very much aware of the controversy, VIFF Chief Programmer Alan Franey stating, "We need to be sensitive to the opinions and controversies here so we will be doing our best to keep people in that safe zone of not prejudging or getting too upset, making sure opinions don't get treated as fact if they're just opinions." Note should be made that Nate Parker was acquitted of the sexual assault charge. Jean Celestin was convicted and later granted a new trial, though the woman declined to testify again and the case never made it back to court. In 2012, the unidentified woman took her own life.

Will you attend the single screening of The Birth of a Nation, at 5pm, Saturday, October 1st at The Centre for the Performing Arts? The issue is art versus realpolitik. Nate Parker will be present in Vancouver to introduce the Special Presentation of his award-winning, and much lauded film ...

"A significant achievement for writer, director, producer and actor Nate Parker, a searingly impressive debut feature, a biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror, The Birth of a Nation builds to a brutal finale that will stir deep emotion and inevitable unease, the film an accomplished theological provocation, one that grapples fearlessly with the intense spiritual convictions that drove Nat Turner to do what he had previously considered unthinkable.

Artfully modulated and fitfully grueling, Nate Parker's well-researched screenplay offers its own bold take on the widely contested narrative of Turner, a Virginia-born slave and Baptist preacher who led the 1831 uprising that claimed 60 white lives and led to the killings of 200 blacks in retaliation, and served as a crucial moment of insurrection en route to the Civil War three decades later. The film's most resonant element isn't its physical realization so much as its spiritual and intellectual acuity, its warm, earthy saintliness, and its historical and contemporary evocation of the ongoing black struggle for justice and equality in the United States. The Birth of a Nation earns that debate and then some."

The above quote is from Justin Chang's Sundance Festival review in Variety.

The Handmaiden. A bodice-ripper, a sexy and depraved lesbian revenge story about a pickpocket who poses as a maid to swindle a sequestered heiress, an erotic thriller that prioritizes female sexuality and exquisite set design to intoxicating effect, an intensely pleasurable and lavishly shot Gothic melodrama, exquisitely filmed, kinky, brimming with delicious surprises and spiced up with nudity and verbal perversions, accomplished South Korean director Park Chan-wook transposes Sarah Waters' sapphic Victorian potboiler Fingersmith to Japanese-occupied Korea at the beginning of the twentieth century, the story told in three parts and from multiple points of view like a modern-day Rashomon. Amidst the heavy slogging of VIFF, The Handmaiden may be just the sort of palliative you'll require to rescue yourself from VIFF's annual foray into cinema of despair. You know who you are. See you at a screening of The Handmaiden.

Under the Shadow. Curtis Woloschuk and the Alt(ered States) crew of twisted programmers put in so many hours in preparation for their genre defying series, and year-in, year-out VanRamblings pays the series short shrift. Not this year. First off we'll start from this brief column by Indiewire editor Anne Thompson ...

"Wait a second. Can the U.K. submit a film for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Oscar? Sure. As long as it's not in English. Take last year: Ireland, not Cuba, submitted Spanish-language film Viva. And France controversially chose the Turkish Mustang as its official entry over a list of top French auteurs. If the submitting country paid for the movie and supplied key personnel, it doesn't matter what language it's in. The French produced Mustang and its director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, born in Turkey, is based in Paris. (Her next movie is English-language.) And the Irish produced Viva, even though director Paddy Breathnach shot with local actors in Havana.

And thus the UK's selection organization, BAFTA, has submitted writer-director Babak Anvari's well-reviewed Sundance mother-daughter drama Under the Shadow, a 1988 Iran-Iraq War thriller shot in Farsi starring Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi and Bobby Naderi."

Otherwise, there's this representative review of Under the Shadow ...

"Consequence of Sound (A-). Terrifying, a spooky ghost story that singes the nerves as much as it coddles the mind. Set in 1988, the story follows a small family in Tehran trying to cope with the tail end of the Iran-Iraq War. This isn't an easy life: bombs come and go, windows are taped in the likelihood of an explosion, and the basement provides daily refuge from any oncoming missiles. These aren't even the larger issues, at least not to Shideh (Narges Rashdi). When we first meet the brave mother and wife, her dreams of studying medicine are crushed by a stern administrator. "I suggest you find a new goal in life," he tells her, following a severe brow beating about her riotous political history. You see, Shideh is a black swan — she's rebellious, strong, fierce, and independent.

Everything clicks in Under the Shadow. Rashdi is captivating, sweating her way through a terse 84-minute performance that's physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting. Her chemistry with Avin Manshadi is equally remarkable, almost too real, which sells the heart-stopping finale in ways similar productions have stumbled hard. Director Babak Anvari spares no expense with his characters, dedicating as much time to their backstory as he does to the film's creepy mythology. Extraordinary, captivating, jarring, calimitous, genre bending, claustrophobic, messy, convincing and unnerving, Under the Shadow embraces the original tenets of horror, back when eerie tales were meant to enlighten rather than simply scare. On his first try out, Anvari wildly transcends the limitations that modern audiences have placed on the genre, and it's a bold testament to his abilities as a filmmaker."

Worth considering for a terrifying VIFF screening, don't you think?

Growing Up Coy. There is no more humanizing experience than attending the annual Vancouver International Film Festival, to remind ourselves once again that we're all in this together, that there is much injustice in the world, and our world will only change if we fight for, demand that change. Growing Up Coy is a film of the moment, the story of Coy Mathis, a transgender girl who was born a boy, garnered international attention in 2013 when her parents, Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, filed a complaint accusing the school district of violating the state's anti-discrimination law.

The Mathises went on to win their case, but not before coming under heavy criticism for putting Coy, then a 6-year-old first grader, in front of reporters and camera crews and on television with Katie Couric. Now, they're poised to be foisted back into the spotlight with the documentary Growing Up Coy, which had its premiere on June 16 in New York at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

Directed by Eric Juhola and produced by his husband, Jeremy Stulberg, Growing Up Coy picks up with the Mathis family in early 2013, about six weeks before they went public with their case. Together with their lawyer, the Mathises believed that speaking openly was necessary to sway the public in Coy's favour and to help win her case. But, as the documentary shows, the move unleashed a media feeding frenzy that previewed the fights that would roil America in 2016, fraying the couple's relationship, drawing excoriations from talking heads and internet trolls, at times alienating their four other children and indelibly etching Coy's name into cyberspace's inexhaustible memory bank.

Nigel M Smith's four star review in The Guardian is as good an entry point as any into providing meaning for the struggle of the Mathis family.

Growing Up Coy, screening at the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

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Today's, and previous VanRamblings' VIFF 2016 columns that present information, trailers, and reviews by thoughtful and erudite critics of films screening at VIFF 2016 — and soon, much more — may be found here.

And, oh yeah, the opening paragraph of today's VanRamblings column? An excerpt from the opening address by Kent Jones, the director of the 54th annual New York Film Festival, which opens the day after our home grown VIFF gets underway, on Friday, September 30th.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:22 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 22, 2016

VIFF 2016: More Must-See Films That Will Debut This Year

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

There is always something new to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and always an acclaimed director debuting a new film that is worth catching up with. It's a lesson that should be kept in mind as the ever-competitive fall movie season — of which this now 35-year-old festival has, surprisingly for many, long been an important pillar — gets underway.

The VIFF programme this year as in the past contains multitudes — that it counts short masterworks, below-the-radar genre items and avant-garde mind-blowers among its essential offerings each year — is a fact that easily gets lost amidst the deafening reams of Oscar hype that issues forth throughout the fall movie season. A massive annual confluence of art and industry, as well as a cinematic buffet of tremendous cultural and aesthetic diversity, can invariably be reduced to just a handful of heat-seeking titles.

In today's VIFF highlights column, VanRamblings will introduce you to four more films that may or may not garner Oscar attention, but should most certainly garner attention from you in order to sate your cinematic palate.

Aquarius: One of VanRamblings' favourite 2012 highlights was Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho's Neighbouring Sounds, which we called a masterwork. In 2016, Mendonça is back with Aquarius, the controversial Cannes debuting film that Brazil did not choose as its Best Foreign Film Oscar entry (at Cannes, Mendonça protested the suspension / inevitable impeachment of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, holding a sign that read "Brazil is experiencing a coup d'etat" and "54,501,118 votes set on fire!"), which means that if you don't see Aquarius at VIFF you may not get to see it at all — now, there's incentive enough to see the work of this master.

Variously described as a richly detailed and colourful character study, with a riveting and magnetic performance by Sonia Braga at the film's centre, Braga plays Clara, a 65-year-old widow and retired music critic, who refuses to sell the beloved Recife beach apartment she's lived in for most of her life, finding herself under attack from a powerful property company, former neighbours, and members of her own family who question her judgement.

Says Giovanni Camia in Filmstage, "Aquarius establishes Mendonça's authorial voice & his place as one of the most eloquent filmic commentators on the contemporary state of Brazilian society," going on to write ...

"Aquarius' central narrative has a clear social-allegorical dimension, the film's opening introducing two important motifs: a bygone sense of unity that has disintegrated in the present, and the idea of memory — and therefore history — as embedded in materials being swept away by contemporary economic processes. Mendonça's despondency at these developments is succinctly expressed through the dissolve that closes the scene: a shot of the apartment filled to the brim as the entire family dances together gives way to one of the same apartment, 34 years later, now empty.

Clara is the film's heroine and Braga deserves high praise for her phenomenal performance. Stately, headstrong, and all-too-recognizably human, she's a delight to watch from start to finish, keeping the viewer mesmerized by her charisma and intensely rooting for her victory. And, anyway, how could one not love a 65-year-old who smokes a joint before the final showdown with her nemeses?"

Clearly, you'll want to place Mendonça's Aquarius on your must-see list.

American Honey. The North American debut for acclaimed British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), American Honey took Cannes by storm back in May, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells writing ...

"American Honey is a truly exceptional film, a kind of millennial Oliver Twist road flick with Fagin played by both Shia Labeouf and Riley Keogh (Elvis' granddaughter) and Oliver played by newcomer Sasha Lane ... but with some good earthy sex thrown in. There's no question that Honey stakes out its own turf and whips up a tribal lather that feels exuberant and feral and non-deodorized. It doesn't have anything resembling a plot but it doesn't let that deficiency get in the way. Honey throbs, sweats, shouts, jumps around and pushes the nervy. (Somebody wrote that it's Arnold channelling Larry Clark) It's a wild-ass celebration of a gamey, hand-to-mouth mobile way of life. And every frame of Robbie Ryan's lensing is urgent and vital."

Praise for American Honey is near universal, the acclaimed Jury Prize winner at Cannes this year, Variety's Guy Lodge writing ...

"American Honey is a ravishing feminine picaresque, a scrappy, sprawling astonishment, as a girl's gaze meets a boy's across the packed aisles of a Midwestern Walmart, the euphoric EDM throb of Calvin Harris and Rihanna's 2011 smash We Found Love hijacks the soundscape, setting a love story emphatically in motion by the time he hops up to dance on the checkout counter. "We found love in a hopeless place," the song's chorus ecstatically declares, over and over, as well it might — does it get more hopeless than Walmart, after all? It's a gesture so brazenly big and romantically literal that it can't help but have your heart, and it's such an early, ebullient cinematic climax that Arnold dares repeat it two hours later, cranking up the song again in a more fraught, nervous context. Like much of what the director risks, she shouldn't get away with it, but most defiantly does."

We're in. Can't wait. See ya at a VIFF screening of American Honey.

Elle. As Variety critic Guy Lodge writes at the outset of his review of Elle,

"You've never seen a rape-revenge fantasy quite like Elle, not least because the rape, revenge and fantasy components of that subgenre have never been quite so fascinatingly disarranged. Knowingly incendiary but remarkably cool-headed, and built around yet another of Isabelle Huppert's staggering psychological dissections, Paul Verhoeven's long-awaited return to notional genre filmmaking pulls off a breathtaking bait-and-switch: Audiences arriving for a lurid slab of arthouse exploitation will be taken off-guard by the complex, compassionate, often corrosively funny examination of unconventional desires that awaits them."

Sometimes you want to go into a VIFF knowing almost nothing about the film. VanRamblings could quote at length a surfeit of critics like The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer, who writes about Elle that it is "a beautiful dark twisted French fantasy" or Lisa Nesselson in Screen Daily who writes, "Elle features a tour de force turn from Isabelle Huppert, the film suspenseful and unsettling from first frame to last, a delectably twisted tale of a woman who reacts in unconventional ways to being raped by an intruder, the film a shocking amoral romp with dark humour in curt dialogue exchanges." ... but, in this one particular instance, apart from the snippets above, we'll leave it up to you as to whether you wish to attend a VIFF screening of Elle, with the peerless, Oscar nominatable Isabelle Huppert at film's centre, and Dutch director Paul Verhoeven back at top of form.

Fire at Sea. Winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin (read: the top prize), and one of the most buzzed about documentaries of the year, Gianfranco Rosi's superb and haunting illumination of the Syrian refugee crisis, in addressing Africa's migration woes Fire At Sea turns it humanist focus on the 150,000 migrant refugees who cross from Libya in overcrowded boats each year to make their first contact with Sicily and European soil.

Capturing the migrant drama through the periscope of his camera, Rosi focuses on the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa, where wave upon waves of desperate boat people bring their dramas, tragedies and emergencies to Europe's shore, and the place where the the Italian navy and coast guard rescue as many survivors as they can. Writes Demetrios Matheou from Berlin in his IndieWire review ...

"The selection of characters is small, precise. The dominant personality of the film is Samuele, a nine-year-old boy and a terrific bundle of good humour and contradictions, not least the fact that while confidently clambering around the island's rocky hills with his trusty, homemade slingshot, he's uncomfortable on water, and prone to seasickness, which is a little inconvenient for an islander.

We follow Samuele at school, with his uncle on his boat, and his grandmother at home, and roaming the island with his friend. When he has to wear an eye patch to deal with his lazy eye (a convenient metaphor for Rosi, perhaps, aimed at the less conscientious of those in the international community?) it plays havoc with his slingshot aim; when speaking to the doctor about his breathing problems, he wonders himself if it may be because he's anxious, a little Italian Woody Allen in the making."

Fire At Sea is one of the most talked about documentaries of the year, and chances are Rosi's film won't make it back to our shores, with VIFF likely providing your sole opportunity to screen Gianfranco Rosi's compassionate, humane, powerful, at times shocking but intensely human, documentary.

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Today's, and previous VanRamblings' VIFF 2016 columns that present information, trailers, and reviews by thoughtful and erudite critics of films screening at VIFF 2016 — and soon, much more — may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:15 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 21, 2016

VIFF 2016: More Must-See Festival Highlight Films to Consider

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The cinema of despair arrives back on our shores for the 35th consecutive year, as the prestigious and always provocative 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival is set to commence on Thursday, September 29th, bringing joy and a degree of pathos to the lives of all those who love film as creative and challenging art, and art that provides a humane and, in most instances, insightful window into this ever-changing world of ours.

Today's VanRamblings column presents four more VIFF films we believe may be worthy of both your time and your consideration at VIFF 2016.

Note should be made that reviews for the four films are not universally over-the-moon, although there's enough good that has been written about each film that further salutary investigation by you may be well warranted.

Each year for the past 20 years, VanRamblings has chosen 20 - 30 films from the VIFF programme, in advance of the Festival, that we've identified as "sure fire winners" based on what we've heard from friends, and have found in reviews on the 'Net. Our track record has been this: out of 20 films we've identified each year, five have emerged as life-changing cinema, nine have proved worthy of our time & we're glad we caught the films, three have provided travelogue-like entertainment, and three we've just hated.

Still and all, appreciation of film is subjective — one person's cup o' tea may not be another's cup o' tea. Read on, assess, then decide for yourself.

I, Daniel Blake. Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year (which is to say, the Grand Prize winner), 80-year-old U.K. writer-director-social activist-kitchen sink dramatist Ken Loach's latest powerful foray into humane cinematic agitprop emerges as one of the two films to which VanRamblings is most looking forward to screening at our VIFF 2016.

From David Rooney's review at Cannes, in The Hollywood Reporter ...

"For more than 50 years, Ken Loach has been making social-realist dramas tied together by a prevailing thread — the compassionate observation of the struggles of the working class to hold onto such fundamental dignities as a home, a job and food on the table within a hostile system that often views them unfairly as the cause of their own misfortunes.

Vividly drawn, full of beautifully subdued performances, authentic, entirely of the moment and anchored by incisive characterizations rich in integrity and heart, and by an urgent simplicity in its storytelling that's surprisingly powerful, I, Daniel Blake portrays ordinary people pushed to breaking point by circumstances beyond their control, and by a government welfare system of circuitous Kafkaesque bureaucracy seemingly designed to beat them down."

Deeply moving and at times darkly funny, Ken Loach establishes himself yet again as the Clifford Odets of contemporary British cinema as his new film intervenes in the messy, ugly world of poverty with the secular intention of making us see that it really is happening, and in a prosperous nation, too. I, Daniel Blake is a film with a fierce, simple dignity of its own. Screens for a first time on Monday, October 3rd, at 3:45pm at The Playhouse; on Thursday, October 6th, 3:15pm at The Centre; and on the last day of VIFF, Friday, October 14th, 6:30pm at The Centre.

Graduation. Romanian Palme d'Or winner (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) Cristian Mungiu's latest follows a doctor's attempts to help his daughter pass a life-changing school exam with superbly subtle observation. As Peter Bradshaw writes in his five-star review in The Guardian ...

"Graduation, is a masterly, complex movie of psychological subtlety and moral weight, about the shabby choices people make as they claw their way up: people constrained by loyalty to others who have helped them with wrongdoing, who use those others' corruption as an alibi for their own failings, and those who hope that the resulting system of shifty back-scratching somehow constitutes an alternative ethical system. But how about the children, those innocent souls for whose sake all this grubbiness has been endured? Should they be preserved from graduating into an infected world of compromise and secret shame?"

An intricate, deeply intelligent film, and a bleak picture of a state of national depression in Romania, where the 90s generation hoped they would have a chance to start again, there are superb performances from Adrian Titieni as surgeon Dr Romeo Aldea, and 18-year-old Maria Dragus — who played the priest's daughter Klara in Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. It's a jewel in an exceptional Cannes 2016 lineup."

With unfailingly convincing performances, a script that keeps the proceedings on a slow burn throughout, Mungiu's direction is the kind that refrains from drawing attention to itself, inviting the audience to fully immerse itself in the story and forget about the people behind the camera. Screens on Friday, September 30th, 1:15pm at Cinema 10, International Village; Wednesday, October 5th, 8:30pm, at The Centre; and for a final time on Tuesday, October 11th, 3:15pm at The Playhouse.

Yourself and Yours. Hong Sang-soo continues in the same intellectually playful vein that he explored in last year's VIFF favourite Right Now, Wrong Then. This is a film which, through use of characters who may or may not be doppelgangers, memories which may or may not be faulty, leaves us with questions that it resolutely refuses to answer, and as such may prove difficult for some members of the audience to process. Going in to TIFF, advance word on Yourself and Yours was not great, either, because the film had been rejected from Berlin, Cannes et al.

As Stephen Dalton writes in his TIFF review, in The Hollywood Reporter ...

"The discreet charm of Yourself and Yours will depend entirely on your tolerance levels for stylistic ticks and the ramblings of tedious, self-pitying drunks and slackers and their minor relationship dramas. Still, South Korean director Hong Sang-soo possesses a distinctive voice and an interesting track record, but his latest exercise in flimsy whimsy may be for indulgent hardcore fans only."

Wendy Ide is much more generous in her Screen Daily review ...

"Hong Sang-soo uses his trademark long takes, with occasional zooms, to capture the meandering conversations that play out between the characters. It's a technique which places emphasis on the performances. Fortunately, the actors are more than up to the task, particularly Lee You-young who is as beguiling as she is elusive. Ultimately, the film makes a case that perhaps it's better not to know everything about the person you love. And sometimes you just need to shed the baggage and start the relationship again from the beginning."

Blithe-bordering-on-farcical, wry and perplexing, with a darker than usual tone, fans of Hong Sang-soo will find plenty to like in Yourself and Yours, namely its wry humor, but for the uninitiated, it may prove a difficult entry point into the prolific filmmaker's work. Screens twice, on Sunday, October 9th, 8:30pm at Cinema 8, International Village; and for a final time on Thursday, October 13th, 2pm at Cinema 10, International Village.

Two Trains Runnin' (Grade: A-). An absolute knockout, one of the critics' and passholder favourites screened in preview at VIFF, and set to unspool at the 54th annual New York Film Festival as part of its Spotlight on Documentary program, Sam Pollard's Two Trains Runnin' is pure cinematic poetry set amidst the racial tensions and general social upheaval that were the order of the day in the '60s, when churches were bombed, shotguns were blasted into cars and homes, and civil rights activists were murdered.

In June of 1964 hundreds of university students eager to join the civil rights movement traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer. That same month, two groups of young men — made up of musicians, college students and record collectors — also traveled to Mississippi. Though neither group was aware of the other, each had come on the same errand: to find an old, long-forgotten blues singer and coax him out of retirement. Thirty years before, Son House and Skip James had recorded some of the most memorable music of their era, but now they seemed lost to time, their music preserved only on scratchy 78s.

A tribute to a generation of blues musicians and the story of how the search for these pioneering musicians intertwined with the American civil rights movement, Two Trains Runnin' is an entirely remarkable document about how on June 21, 1964, these two campaigns collided in memorable and tragic fashion, and how America's cultural and political institutions were dramatically transformed, a story as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Screens on VIFF's opening day, Thursday, September 29th, 6:30pm at The Cinematheque; Saturday, October 8th, 3:15pm at The Rio; and on Wednesday, October 12th, 6:30pm, at Cinema 9, International Village.

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Today's, and previous VIFF 2016 columns may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:12 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 20, 2016

VIFF 2016: The First of Eight Festival Highlights Columns

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival begins with Maudie, a biopic of the reclusive Canadian painter Maud Lewis, and ends 16 days later with Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience, Malick's 45-minute cinematic odyssey across time and history.

Among the well-known international filmmakers whose work will be presented at VIFF are France's André Téchiné, Olivier Assayas, François Ozon and Mia Hansen-Løve, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda, Romania's Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu and Radu Jude, Belgium's Joachim Lafosse, Chile's Pablo Larrain, Spain's Pedro Almodóvar, China's Jia Zhangke, Iran's Asghar Farhadi, South Korea's Park Chanwook, Brazil's Kleber Mendonça Filho, the U.K.'s Terence Davies and Ken Loach, and the latest celebrated work from acclaimed American filmmakers Kenneth Lonergan and Jim Jarmusch.

As we'll do each day for the next 8 days, VanRamblings will attempt to provide insight into the critically acclaimed films which will arrive on our shores after having garnered recognition at film festivals spanning the globe. But first off today, a film that swept the Sundance Film Festival in January, a lock for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, a Best Actor Oscar nod for Casey Affleck, and a probable Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod for the always sublime Michelle Williams ...

A wrenching drama about a grief-stricken New England family, Manchester by the Sea is, as Sasha Stone wrote in her Telluride review, "sad and beautiful, not a dark film, nor really a depressing one. It's just about living with the truth laid bare." Justin Chang writes in his Variety review ...

"Kenneth Lonergan's beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama about how a death in the family forces a small-town New Englander to confront a past tragedy anew, gives flesh and blood to the idea that life goes on even when it no longer seems worth living, which diagrammatic description provides little justice to Lonergan's ever-incisive ear for the rhythms of human conversation, as he orchestrates an unruly suite of alternately sympathetic and hectoring voices — all of which stand in furious contrast to Casey Affleck's bone-deep performance as a man whom loss has all but petrified into silence.

While Manchester by the Sea is very much about uncles, nephews, fathers and sons, Lonergan, always a superb director of actresses, gives the women in his ensemble their due. It's been a while since Michelle Williams had a role this good, but she's lost none of her unerring knack for emotional truth, and she has one astonishing scene that rises from the movie like a small aria of heartbreak."

From Manchester by the Sea's sound design and cinematography to Affleck's and Williams' haunting performances, Kenneth Lonergan's third feature film emerges as one of the best films of 2016, and a must-see for anyone who says they love film, as the transformative art of our age. Manchester by the Sea screens three times at the Centre for the Performing Arts, on Thursday, October 6th at 6pm, Saturday, October 8th at 2:15pm, and on Wednesday, October 12th at 8:30pm.

João Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist

The Ornithologist. Screening at the 54th annual New York Film Festival at the same time it screens at VIFF, here's what the New York Times' lead film critic Manohla Dargis had to say about João Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist in her Toronto Film Festival weekend wrap-up column ...

"The single most delightful and narratively adventurous movie I saw at Toronto, The Ornithologist very loosely recasts the story of Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese saint who died in the 13th century. Set in the present, this genre-buster pivots on Fernando (the lovely, pillow-lipped French actor Paul Hamy), whose one-man expedition into the wild goes weirdly, at times hilariously, wrong and then right. During Fernando's travels, he's waylaid (and hogtied) by pilgrims; takes a tumble with a goatherd; and exchanges gazes with the locals, notably the birds who look down upon him in long shots that, in movies, are known as bird's-eye or God's-eye views.

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues of Portugal, The Ornithologist meanders as headily as its protagonist, zigging and zagging through one pastoral location and down one narrative byway after another. I'm still trying to figure out who the three bare-breasted huntresses are; they turn up on horseback with a heraldic blast of a horn, dogs barking and hooves pounding. That isn't a complaint, but an acknowledgment of the story's glories and mysteries, which makes The Ornithologist a good metaphor for both moviegoing and the festival experience at its best. Mr. Rodrigues opens up a world like a scroll as he shifts from realism to the fantastical and then the allegorical; pauses to meditate on the beauty of the world; and insists on the fusion of the spirit and the flesh. I can't wait to see it again."

VanRamblings' friend, Mathew Englander — who has just returned from TIFF — also raves about The Ornithologist, as do any number of thoughtful film critics. The Ornithologist screens only twice at VIFF, on Thursday, October 6th at 3:15pm in Cinema 8 at International Village, and Monday, October 10th at 6:15pm at the Vancity. Get your tickets soon, cuz when word gets out on The Ornithologist tickets are gonna be hard to come by.

And finally for today, Alison Maclean's acclaimed New Zealand production ...

Another one of Mathew Englander's favourite TIFF films, here's what New Zealand film critic Graeme Tuckett has to say about The Rehearsal ...

"New Zealand director Alison Maclean's The Rehearsal is a small, but undeniably ambitious film. Maclean (Jesus' Son) — shooting a script she co-wrote with Emily Perkins, adapted from the novel by Eleanor Catton — drives the play-within-the-film conceit into some smartly constructed scenes. Most successful — and often, ironically, superbly well acted — are the scenes set in the drama school classroom. In the best of these vignettes, Kerry Fox is a near-hypnotic presence, passive-aggressively manipulating and undermining her charges, while she preens and struts in front of them. Fox doesn't quite plumb the depths of repressed sexuality of Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal — a film The Rehearsal surely owes a debt to — Fox is far more overtly likeable and forgiveable here than Dench was allowed to be in that under-rated gem. But the character, if we watch closely, is no less chilling."

An impressive technical work with a collection of remarkable performances, and well-composed imagery, with The Rehearsal Canadian born but New Zealand raised writer-director Alison Maclean has created an emotionally textured adaptation of Man Booker award-winning author Eleanor Catton's first novel, a drama that's as piercing as it is potent. The Rehearsal screens three times at VIFF 2016, on Friday, September 30th at 10:45am in Cinema 10 at the International Village; Saturday, October 8th at The Playhouse; and for a final time on Sunday, October 9th at The Centre.

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Today's, and previous VIFF 2016 columns may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:25 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 19, 2016

VIFF Movie Mania Nears: Tickets On Sale at the Vancity Theatre

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film Festival tickets are on sale daily at the Vancity Theatre on Seymour Street, just north of Davie. This year's festival will run from Thursday, September 29th through Friday, October 14th where 365+ films, including 219 full-length features, from 75+ countries will screen.

Get ready for a cinematic onslaught: Tickets and passes for the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival have been on sale since the first part of the month. This year's edition of VIFF, which takes place September 29-October 14, will screen upwards of 365 domestic and foreign films, including 219 full-length features and 130 short or mid-length films from 75+ countries which will play on nine screens at seven venues.

2016 Vancouver International Film Festival Programme Guide

This year's glossy programme (once again, available at no charge) may be found at the Vancity Theatre, as well as at libraries, coffee shops, community centres and VIFF sponsors all across the Metro Vancouver area.

And as per usual, films will screen (mostly) throughout the downtown core, from the Vancity Theatre (185 seats) on Seymour Street in new Yaletown, to the Cinematheque (194 seats) on Howe Street, in the burgeoning South Granville area. Many VIFF screenings will occur in the thriving, relatively new Crosstown neighbourhood, nestled in between the hustle and bustle of downtown, the new-money flash of Yaletown, the historical character of Gastown, and the colourful grit of Chinatown, with screens available to patrons at the 350-seat SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (in the Woodwards building, at Abbott and Hastings), the nearby Cineplex International Village Cinema, in Cinemas 8, 9 and 10 (799 seats in total), and the Vancouver Playhouse, on Hamilton Street (668 seats).

Perhaps the most glorious (as well as largest, and most comfortable) venue is The Centre for the Performing Arts, on Homer Street, between Georgia and Robson (1800 seats, 900 on the main floor), due west of the Vancouver Public Library. The Rio Theatre, at Commercial and Broadway (420 seats), will also play host to a wide range of VIFF 2016 films.

Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait

Beginning Tuesday, VanRamblings will publish insight into 25+ films which arrive at our 35th annual VIFF having won awards and critical acclaim at film festivals spanning the globe, from Venice and Berlin, to Cannes & Locarno, from Tribeca and Toronto, to Seattle, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, London, Park City Utah's Sundance Film Festival, and more, as we attempt to provide you with insight into what may emerge as worthy entries, among them films which are likely to gain Oscar recognition early in 2017.

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Full, daily VIFF coverage — which began on Monday, September 19th — will be available here through and beyond Festival end on October 14th, or by simply returning to VanRamblings each day. Commencing on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 VanRamblings will provide 8 straight days of coverage of the 25 - 30 award-winning and under the radar films that will screen at the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival that may be worthy of your interest and your consideration.

VanRamblings will also provide coverage of the International Shorts programme (thank you Sandy Gow!), and will publish an interview with the tremendously gifted Vancity programmer Tom Charity that we hope readers will find both informative and heartening. Looking forward to seeing you back here at VanRamblings regularly and often, as we seek to provide VIFF 2016 coverage we hope will be of ongoing and consuming interest to you.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:55 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

November 8, 2015

2015 Oscar Contenders, The Season's & The Year's Best Films

Winter 2015-16 Oscar contendersLeft to right, top to bottom, 2015's front-running Oscar contenders: Spotlight, The Martian, Room; Son of Saul, Bridge of Spies, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road; Joy, Brooklyn, Steve Jobs; The Danish Girl, Carol, Inside Out, and Youth.

As is the case each year, the chill weather of late autumn and early winter brings on the year's most prestigious films, an opportunity for Hollywood to prove that it's not just all about the sanguinity of the bottom line, but that from studio heads through to directors, actors, producers, screenwriters, cinematographers, and all the other 'crafts' who pour their lifeblood into making films, cinema is more about celebrating the rousing, transformative filmic experience, over the more prosaic concerns of the fiscal imperative.

Tom O'Neil's Gold Derby website, surveying you and the critics, predicts the Oscar award winnersTom O'Neil's Gold Derby surveys you & the critics to predict the Oscar award winners

Each autumn for more than a decade, from mid-autumn through until the evening of the Oscar ceremony, David Poland — the founder of the film news "blog", MovieCityNews — sets about, weekly, to survey the informed opinions of Hollywood's top Oscar prognosticators, from recent U.S. Weekly film critic Thelma Adams, to Hitfix's Gregory Ellwood, The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg, the Toronto Star's Peter Howell, Fandango's Dave Karger, and IndieWire's Anne Thompson, among a host of others, on what films, and which directors and actors have emerged, in any given week, as the odds-on favourites to make the final cut when — in 2016, on Thursday, January 14th — the Oscar nominations are announced, and on February 28th, 2016, Oscars are awarded to the previous year's best films, performances, screenplays, producers & craft work of outstanding calibre.

Oscar prognostication, an art in the world of identifying the year's best filmsHollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells predicts the Oscar nominees in his Oscar Balloon

For those who do not follow the perambulations of the "Oscar race" (for us, it is not dissimilar to following & commenting on an "election race" — with much less on the line, of course), VanRamblings will be here each weekend to update you on which films are worthy of your time, providing as well early insight into the potential career-altering & enhancing Oscar winners.

MovieCityNews' Gurus of Gold Oscar predictions for the week of November 8, 2015
An amalgam of Gurus of Gold film critics predict the Best Picture Oscar nominees.

This week, Poland's Gurus of Gold Oscar panel has highlighted the riveting journalistic thriller Spotlight (opening in Vancouver next weekend) as their runaway number one film of the year, followed by Ridley Scott's humanistic science fiction film, The Martian (which has garnered box office gold in its first five weeks of release, its international and domestic take currently sitting at a pristine $458 million), the independently-financed Canadian-
Irish co-production of Emma Donaghue's gripping New York Times best-seller, Room, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank's Bridge of Spies, the upcoming Christmas Day release films, The Revenant (directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio), as well as Joy (the latest film from the irascible David O. Russell, starring Jennifer Lawrence in a certain-to-be-nominated Oscar performance), the wonderful and incredibly moving Saoirse Ronan-starrer, Brooklyn, and rounding out their top 10, the Aaron Sorkin-scripted Steve Jobs, Cannes' Best Actress winner (for Rooney Mara) Carol, and Disney's animated classic, Inside Out.

Gold Derby film critics predict the 2015 Oscar nomineesSix of the Gold Derby film critics weigh in on probable Best Picture Oscar nominees

Todd Haynes' Carol will open in Vancouver on Friday, December 11th, and as indicated above, both David O. Russell's Joy and Alejandro González Iñárritu's The Revenant will open Christmas Day across Metro Vancouver, with Spotlight opening in Vancouver this coming weekend, and Inside Out already available on DVD or On Demand for your home theatre system.

The spectacularly affecting Brooklyn (VanRamblings' favourite film this year) opens in Vancouver on November 20th, while Room, Bridge of Spies, Steve Jobs, and The Martian are currently screening at cineplexes across Metro Vancouver. Lots of time left for you to see the very best Hollywood has to offer, all in preparation for the gala, gala "do" that is the annual dressed-to-the-nines, "look how gorgeous her gown is" end of February Oscar ceremony. Bring on the buttered popcorn and Oscar party snacks!


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Cinema

October 10, 2015

VIFF2015: Brooklyn Wins the Audience 'People's Choice' Award

Brooklyn, probable multiple Oscar nominee and the most powerfully affecting film to screen at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival emerged as the overwhelming audience favourite at last night's VIFF 2015 Closing Gala, held at the Centre for the Performing Arts.

Adapted from the Irish novel by Colm Tóibín, and delicately adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant who travels to America in the early 1950s for a more prosperous life.

Brooklyn | Director, John Crowley | Starring Saoirse RonanBrooklyn | John Crowley | 2015 | VIFF Opening Gala | Ireland | 105 minutes

Impeccably crafted and gorgeously rendered, as Rodrigo Perez wrote for The Playlist earlier this year, when the film débuted at the Sundance Film Festival, Brooklyn offers "a heartbreaking and poignant story about choices, country, commitments, sacrifice, and love, and a superb, luminous, and bittersweet portrayal of who we are, where we've come from, where we're going, and the places we call home."

Brooklyn will open in Vancouver for its regular run on November 4th.

VIFF's most popular international documentary was Swedish director Stig Björkman's Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words.

Votes are tabulated through collection of comment cards made available to VIFF patrons, and as patrons submit their appraisal of films screened, through use of the VIFF app, available for both Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms.

Vancouver International Film Festival awards

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival Canadian Images and BC award winners

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival Canadians short film award winners
Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:56 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 8, 2015

VIFF2015: Cinema of Despair To Come to a Close in Mere Hours

VIFF 2015 comes to a close on Friday, October 9th

Yes, it's the final day for the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival films at Cineplex's International Village, and Friday is the last day of VIFF 2015 — we're verklempt (but, secretly, we're kind of glad, cuz we've got a scratchy throat, which for us is always a precursor to a cold or the flu) — except, of course, for the VIFF Repeats, which begin at 11:45am Saturday.

The above said, there are a great many films which will screen today and tomorrow that are worthwhile, or must-sees — you're simply going to have to take our word for it. The absolute must-see, change your schedule film:

Sparrows, screening at 2:30pm at the Vancity Theatre is, by far, the BEST film screening today; yes, it'll be difficult to fit in other films, but no other film is as great and important and memorable and worthwhile as Sparrows, a knock you on your ass film. 2:30pm, Vancity Theatre — be there.

Otherwise, if you haven't caught Albert Maysles' final film, In Transit (by far the BEST documentary at VIFF 2015), you'll want to make darn sure you catch the final screening of the year's best documentary at 2pm, Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10. Now, it's true — you can't fit in In Transit and Sparrows, cuz they're screening at competing times. If documentaries are your cup of tea, In Transit is for you, if knock you on your ass, world-class filmmaking is your cuppa, it'll be Sparrows you want to see.

On Friday, the very, very last day, it'll be gone forever, there'll be no more VIFF 2015, you'se either gotta see 'em now, or ... well, you know ...

James White is the keeper on Friday, screening at SFU Woodwards at 1:30pm. Accused is the second must-see the last day of VIFF 2015, screening at 6pm at The Cinematheque.

Friday, if you fail to take in the 9pm screening, at The Playhouse, of I Saw The Light, well, you're just plum loco, yer jes out of yer cotton pickin' mind. I mean, why wouldn't you want to go out on a high note at VIFF 2015?

Hank freakin' Williams — Mr. Despair himself (and isn't that what our film festival is all about, the cinema of despair? ... yer darn tootin' it is), and Mr. Despair is paired with the dishiest dish in Hollywood (and she's durn talented, too, that ...) Elizabeth Olsen, and she could very well pick up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar on Sunday night, February 28, 2016, too.

Believe you me, if you ain't at The Playhouse on Friday night to see I Saw The Light, you're just gonna be singin' those lovesick blues til the cows come home — and you wouldn't want that to happen, would ya?

Vote for your favourite VIFF film using VIFF's smartphone app

There'll be no coverage of VIFF on Friday, cuz we need a break (and then there's that scratchy throat thing-a-ma-jiggy).

On Saturday, you will find the list of winners that were announced at VIFF 2015's Closing Gala, at The Centre for the Performing Arts. At some point next week — in the midst of what will be daily coverage of Canada's 42nd national election — we'll publish a column on the audience favourites, as tabulated through your votes on the VIFF app, or on those sweet cards that VIFF volunteers were handing out.

We will likely publish a column reflecting on VIFF 2015, prob'ly next week.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:55 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 7, 2015

VIFF2015: Holdovers & Repeats at the Vancity Theatre

viff-repeats.jpg

With the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival quickly wending its way to a close, the fine folks at VIFF have planned an additional week of screenings at the Vancity Theatre, on Davie Street and Seymour. As in past years, Festival passes, ticket packs and complimentary vouchers will not be accepted for the VIFF Repeats series. Attendees will need to purchase an individual ticket for each show. Tickets are available by clicking on the highlighted title links below, through viff.org, or at the Vancity Theatre box office during regular box office hours.

I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced

Saturday, October 10th

11:45am, Rams. In this enchanting Icelandic export, two estranged, unmarried brothers are reunited after 40 years when an infectious disease threatens to decimate their prized flocks of sheep. As they face financial ruin and emotional devastation (their love for these animals is endearingly evident), Grímur Hákonarson fashions a richly detailed tragicomedy concerning idiosyncratic vocations and immediately relatable sibling dynamics. "Wonderfully wry, charmingly understated ..." — Variety

1:45pm, I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced. One of VanRamblings' Festival highlights, this must-see film is set in 2009, and tells the true story of Yemeni preteen Nojoom Ali's bid to legally extricate herself from an abusive, arranged marriage to a much older man, a story which made international headlines. Khadija Al-Salami has beautifully adapted the non-fiction bestseller into an emphatic drama featuring a wondrous performance from Reham Mohammed as the young Ali, and a striking backdrop of Yemen's astonishing mountain villages and ancient "skyscrapers." "A powerful, moving and provocative debut drama ..." — Screen

4pm, A Ballerina's Tale. Some ascents to stardom are meteoric. Others are a gruelling marathon. Ballerina Misty Copeland learned early on that not everything comes easily for a teen prodigy. Especially when you're African-American and racial homogeny is part of ballet's exclusivity. Nelson George's inside look at the art and industry of ballet invites us to marvel at Copeland's courage and grace but question what goes on behind closed curtains. Most importantly, it gives us a real-life heroine to root for with all our hearts. "Inspirational doesn't begin to describe it." — Rolling Stone

6:15pm, Umrika. Rama (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma) is flushed out of rural life when he learns that his brother is missing in Mumbai. As a search for answers thrusts him into the metropolis' chaos, he forges letters from his sibling to his mother in hopes of sparing her heartbreak. In turn, Prashant Nair crafts a moving story about devotion and discovery. "The film's takes on immigration, country-city contrasts and youthful dreams of the future are lovingly detailed..." — Hollywood Reporter

8:30pm, 100 Yen Love.The fraught and very possibly doomed romance between a dumpy 32-year-old woman and a failing boxer gives 100 Yen Love its storyline, but the film's focus is on its unlikely heroine, a chronic underachiever who finally discovers something worth getting out of bed for. Take's command of image and mood couldn't be better; Ando Sakura is stupendous in the lead — Tony Rayns. Japan's nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Lobster, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Sunday, October 11th

4:30pm, Requiem for the American Dream. Noam Chomsky and his unassailable arguments about how economic inequality has become an entrenched part of western life are front and centre in Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott's superbly reasoned documentary, one part analysis and one part call to arms. The interviews with Chomsky were shot over four years and show that none of the 86-year-old's fight has gone out of him. "This short, sharp, smart essay-film makes excellent use of Chomsky's insights..." — Hollywood Reporter

6.15pm, Sabali. When her boyfriend stops making love with her, Jeannette (Marie Brassard) begins an affair with a young co-worker (Francis La Haye). Alas, it turns out that her heart problems are physical as well as metaphorical. When Jeannette inherits the heart of a deceased Malian woman, she's stalked by the donor's son (Youssef Camara) who's convinced that she's the reincarnation of his late mother... Ryan McKenna's stylized and nuanced film is sure to delight.

8:15pm, The Lobster. The pressures of courtship are pushed to absurdist extremes in this outrageous comedy from Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth). Confined to an isolated resort, singles (including Colin Farrell) must take a mate within 45 days or be transformed into animals. As Farrell falls in with a band of rebel loners (who count Rachel Weisz among their members), Lanthimos wrings much pathos from his outlandish premise. "A wickedly funny, unexpectedly moving satire... Perversely romantic..." — Variety

Monday, October 12th

Noon, Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven. Phyllis Ellis' documentary is equal parts mystery, history and adventure. Algoma's tangled wilderness and Lake Superior's expansive North Shore inspired The Group of Seven in their formative years - young artists searching to articulate the Canadian landscape. Now, three modern-day adventurers canoe across lakes, bushwhack through untamed forests and scale cliffs to seek out the vistas that inspired these artists. Seeing the iconic paintings side by side with the astonishing locations that inspired them is a reminder of art's power and this land's majestic beauty.

1:45pm, Rainbow Island. One of the most astonishingly exotic films in this year's festival has to be Khosrow Sinai's drama. The title refers to the island of Hormuz, with its extraordinary multi-coloured soils, ancient Portuguese forts and folk-art traditions. How much are the custom-bound villagers willing to welcome the outside world? Enter Dr. Ahmad Nadalian, a highly educated interloper from Tehran who proposes a radical plan to transform the islands assets into a thriving cultural destination.

4pm, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. Peggy Guggenheim not only amassed one of the world's most impressive collections of contemporary art but also rightfully earned a reputation as the consummate bohemian. In her wildly entertaining follow up to Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Lisa Immordino Vreeland explores how Guggenheim forsook her bourgeois birthright in favour of a villa in Venice, crashing international art scenes, and discovering the likes of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko in the process. "[With] so many love affairs and ego clashes Art Addict never feels a bit like a history lesson." — Hollywood Reporter

6:15pm, Sleeping Giant. Andrew Cividino's remarkable debut is a story of friendship, confusion, betrayal and peer pressure. Fourteen-year-old Adam is enduring a dull summer in a small Lake Superior beach community when he meets local boys Foster and Rizzo. "The cast and filmmakers illuminate not just the wit and charm of young men, but also the callow cruelty of youth, driven by a killer combination of naïve idealism, solipsism, poor self-esteem and raging hormones." — Hollywood Reporter

8:15pm,
The Royal Tailor. The term "costume drama" takes on a whole new meaning in Lee Wonsuk's sumptuous period melodrama, which centres on the rivalry between the official tailor to the king's court and a handsome young upstart with new ideas and techniques. Their conflict plays out amid a welter of fabrics, passions and protocols, with several top stars adding dramatic weight. The attention to the details of tailoring is awesome — Tony Rayns.

Tuesday, October 13th

1:30pm, Landfill Harmonic. In Latin America's largest landfill, a garbage picker uncovers the raw materials for makeshift musical instruments. As cellos and violins are fashioned from stray detritus, a group of local children are likewise transformed into the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura. Reminiscent of VIFF '10 standout Waste Land, Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley's documentary is an inspiring tale of resilience and transcendence. "A secret treasure... A story of the dull throb of existence gleefully recalibrated by the thundering heartbeat of music." — Austin Chronicle

4pm, Hannah: Buddhism's Untold Journey. In the late 60s, India experienced a Western invasion as outsiders flooded over the border in hopes of finding enlightenment. The Beatles may have been the highest profile pilgrims, but Hannah Nydahl, a young Danish woman, was ultimately the most influential. She and her husband were the first westerners to study under His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and then spread his teachings abroad. Part biography, part adventure film, Adam Penny and Marta György-Kessler's documentary celebrates a true pioneer. "Visually, the film is a pleasure..." — Village Voice

6:15pm, The Devout. After his terminally ill daughter (Olivia Martin) claims to have had a past life as an astronaut, a Christian teacher (Charlie Carrick) experiences a profound crisis of faith. Obsessively seeking answers, he risks his marriage and his remaining days with his child to determine whether she's lived before... and might live again. Reflective and provocative, Connor Gaston's debut is one of the year's most unique Canadian features.

Wednesday, October 14th

2:30pm, Jumbo Wild. Nick Waggoner's gorgeous, gripping documentary captures a decades-long struggle over the future of Jumbo Valley, deep within the raw, rugged Purcell range of B.C.'s Columbia Mountains. Exploring a tug-of-war between a proposed (and long-delayed) $450-million ski resort near Invermere versus community members, conservationists and the Ktunaxa Nation and Shuswap Indian Band who are determined to see Jumbo kept wild, Waggoner's film documents the fierce ideological battle surrounding how we value land.

4pm, Palio. Siena is one of the world's most picturesque cities and the Palio is its crowning glory. Held twice a summer, this often ruthless bareback horse race brings pageantry and unparalleled intensity to the tight turns of the medieval town's Piazza del Campo. Cosima Spender's breathtaking documentary centres on a young upstart intent on making his mark in this cutthroat competition. "A remarkably concise and clear explanation of a complex, ancient tradition... How can something like this still exist? And how can one film capture it in such elegant detail?" — Vanity Fair

6:15pm, Racing Extinction. Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) returns with another enviro-doc that doubles as a top-flight thriller. Racing against the clock to stave off a mass extinction, Psihoyos' undercover activists infiltrate underground marketplaces trafficking in endangered marine life and immerse us in oceans turning toxic from our energy consumption. The stakes couldn't be higher, resulting in a film that unfolds with uncommon urgency. "A mesmeric entertainment and enlightenment... A chilling call to action to stop ocean poisoning before it results in destruction of the planet." — Hollywood Reporter

8:30pm, No Men Beyond This Point. In a world where women procreate asexually, male babies have become passé and an entire gender faces extinction... What's a guy to do? Well, the youngest man alive (Patrick Gilmore), who toils as a housekeeper for a West Vancouver all-female family, is unaware that he's about to become a key player in a battle for survival. Camera Shy's Mark Sawers is at the height of his satirical powers with this wry speculative mockumentary.

Thursday, October 15th

6:30pm, Marshland. One of the big hits at VIFF 2015, and winner of multiple Goya Awards, for VanRamblings Marshland was a note for note ripoff of Cary Fukunaga's Season 1 HBO series, True Detective — same music, same marshland, same two detectives. Not to mention that: if we never see another movie where socially and economically disadvantaged girls and young women are tortured, raped and sexually mutilated as a narrative device, ever again, it'll be too soon. Attend at your peril.

8:45pm, Magallanes. Another one of VanRamblings' favourites, we'll quote VIFF passholder Ken Tomilson on this watchable and important film: "a Peruvian film where the lead (Magallanes) and his friends were once military personnel fronting the war against the Shining Path with too much power in their hands. Now, 15 years later, their lives are insignificant but their past comes back to haunt them in the form of scandals that could destroy them. Well written and acted and very entertaining." star.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpg


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:16 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 5, 2015

VIFF2015: The Must-See Best of the Fest Films Still to Come

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival must-see films

Well, here we are in the final days of the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival as VIFF regulars (also known as VIFF cinephiles) prepare for the end of this year's glorious cinematic wonderment, awaiting the announcement as to what films are available for holdover at the Vancity Theatre following Friday's fest end. All in due time, dear & constant reader.

In this final week there are two more must-see films to be screened over the course of the next four days — one from Lithuania, one from Iceland — both unlikely to return to our shores, tremendous films that are more than worthy of your limited time, and given your wearied state, your attention.

The Summer of Sangailé | Dir. Alanté Kavaïté | Julija Steponaitytė, Aistė Diržiūtė | Lithuania

The Summer of Sangailé (Grade: A): Achingly beautiful and intoxicating, director Alanté Kavaïté won Best Director at Sundance earlier this year for her erotic and lyrical depiction of a young girl's sexual awakening, an at times roiling coming of age tale that explores the wounded psychology of the main lead (a voluptuously enchanting Julija Steponaitytė, her character a provocative mix of naivete and ripe, unbridled sexuality), in one of the most dreamily tender yet near terrifying depictions of first love ever captured on screen. Gorgeously lensed, sun-kissed, alluring, intimate, affecting, memorable, beautifully universal, hypnotic and at times blazingly intense, the film's dreamlike mood is set through music, and the rapturous soundtrack written by Jean-Benoît Dunckel, one of the lead members of Air. Skilfully melding gesture, poetry and innocence into the slow-burning emotional and physical realms of romantic love, The Summer of Sangailé emerges as one of the year's best films, and another VIFF 2015 must-see. Final screening: Wednesday, October 7th, 6:30pm, in Cineplex's Cinema 9.

Sparrows, award-winning film from Iceland screening at VIFF 2015

Sparrows (Grade: A): Breathtakingly intense, Rúnar Rúnarsson's sad, delicate Icelandic coming-of-age tale quietly observes a lanky teenage boy, Avi (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson) who we first meet singing counter-tenor in a boy's choir in Rekjavik. When Avi's mother is hired to supervise a research project in Africa, the boy is sent to live with his estranged father in the distant western fjords of the country, where the locals medicate the ills of a declining economy with alcohol; small town life proves anything but charming. Avi's potential love interest, young Lara, carries the fatalism of a girl who settles for the local bully, while Kjeld, Avi's kindly grandmother, is the exceptional figure who lives with a simple dignity. As Guy Lodge writes in his Variety review, " this outwardly conventional coming-of-ager rewards viewers' patience, delivering a late narrative jolt that is bound to stir heated post-screening conversation in its chilly wake." Fortunately, the film saves a tiny dose of sentiment & redemptive humanity for the film's final moments. Final screening: Thursday, October 8th at 2:30pm, in the Vancity Theatre.

Additional VIFF Must-Sees Before The Festival Wends To Its End

The double bill of VIFF 2015: Wednesday afternoon you'll want to take in a screening of VIFF 2015's best feature film, Sylvia's Chang's Taiwanese stunner Murmur of the Hearts, 4:15pm in Cineplex's Cinema 10, followed by VIFF's best documentary, Albert Maysles' In Transit, also in Cinema 10.

Son of Saul, a film from László Nemes

Upcoming must-sees: Son of Saul, One Million Dubliners, there's good buzz on Zinia Flower and The Measure of a Man, I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced is a must-see, while there's good buzz on The Competition, folks have been raving about Accused, and James White. Schneider vs Bax also has quite a following, as does Peruvian director Salvador del Solar's Magallanes, which screens for a final time Tuesday at 3:30pm in Cinema 9 at Cineplex's International Village. Lots to see as VIFF 2015 wends to a close.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:03 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 4, 2015

VIFF2015: Spiritual Transcendence in the Midst of Anomie

The Church of Cinema, at The Centre

VanRamblings feels that it is necessary for all concerned that we "revive" our annual column on why it is that the cinephiles who each year attend 50+ VIFF films (and there are a whole bunch of us) feel so passionate about wanting to hear every sound, burrow into every picture, experience the every emotion of the characters on screen before us, at Vancouver's annual splendid, glorious and enchanting little film festival by the sea.

Worshipping at the Church of Cinema

Imagine yourself on a Sunday morning at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival. You've just walked into The Centre, where you've been greeted by one of the church members, and are then ushered into a dark room with seats all facing forward. You feel reverent.

You are about to worship at the 'church of cinema'.

One hundred years on, global cinema has arrived as a form of transcendence, for many replacing the once venerated position held by the institutional church. Think about the similarities: churches and the cinema are both large buildings built in the public space. Both have signage out front indicating what is about to occur inside.

As physical structures, the church and the cinema create a sense of sacred space with their high ceilings, long aisles running the length of the darkened rooms inside, the use of dim lighting, the sweeping curvature of the walls, and the use of curtains to enhance the sacredness of the experience.

In the church of cinema we take communion not with bread and wine, but with the ritualistic consumption of our favourite snack.

Consider if you will, the memorable moment when you enter the auditorium to find your perfect viewing angle, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy. Although you may not receive absolution at the cinema, there is the two-hour reprieve from the burden of your daily life.

As the lights are dimmed, the service begins: The seating, and the opening introduction constitute a liturgy for one and all, not dissimilar to the welcoming ritual that occurs in a church service prior to the sermon. If you are like most people, you obey an unwritten rule that requires you to be in place in time for either the singing (if you're in church) or the introduction of a film by a Vancouver Film Festival theatre manager. And, you remain silent while in the theatre, focused on all that unfolds before you.

There is, too, the notion that as the film limns your unconscious mind you are being transported, elevated in some meaningful way, left in awe in the presence of a work of film art.

What we want from church is often, these days, more of what we receive from the cinema on offer at the Vancouver International Film Festival: the vague, unshakable notion that the eternal and invisible world is all around us, transporting us as we sit in rapt attention. We experience the progress and acceleration of time, as we see life begin, progress, and find redemption. All within two hours. The films at the Vancouver International Film Festival constitute much more than entertainment; each film is a thoughtful meditation on our place in society and our purpose in life.

As a film draws to a close, just as is the case following a sermon we might hear in church, our desire is to set about to discuss with friends that which we have just experienced. Phrases and moments, transcending current frustrations with a new resolve, all in response to a line of dialogue or an image on the screen that we have now incorporated into how we will lead our life going forward.

In the holy trinity of meaning, cinema reigns supreme, the personal altar of our home theatres placing a distant second place, the city providing the physical proof of the reality the other two point to, oriented towards the satisfaction of the devout cinemagoer's theology.

Throughout the centuries we have sought to find meaning through manifest ritual and symbolism. As in the scene from American Beauty - a plastic bag sailing in the breeze as an intimation of immortality - there is, perhaps, something for us to consider respecting the difference between art as diversion and art in our lives as a symbolic representation of an awakened mindfulness, allowing us to transcend the troubles of our lives.

For those who attend the Vancouver International Film Festival, cinema has emerged as that place where we might experience life in the form of parable, within a safe and welcoming environment, that place where we are able to become vulnerable and open, hungry to make sense of our lives. Cinema delivers for many of us access to the new spiritualism, the place where we experience not merely film, but language, memory, art, love, death and, perhaps even, spiritual transcendence.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:01 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 3, 2015

VIFF2015: Murmur of the Hearts, VIFF's BEST FILM in 2015

Murmur of the Hearts, a masterful new film by Taiwanese director Sylvia ChangThe sensuously hypnotic Isabella Leong & Joseph Chang in a scene from Murmur of the Hearts

Murmur of the Hearts (Grade: A+): A fable given over to exposition tempered by forays into the realm of magical realism, elegiac, a film that adopts time not just as an elastic concept but with a spiritual sense previously unexplored in the cinematic realm, gifted with gorgeously lustrous and moodily hypnotic cinematography, utterly sublime and original, epic and tour-de-force filmmaking of the first order, quietly introspective, subtle, moving, whimsical, enchanting, resonant, ethereal, wildly and sensuously ambitious, poignant, mesmerizing, rapturous, poetic and surprisingly affecting, the memories of the film's four protagonists woven into the most lyrically beautiful film you'll see this or any other year. The 34th Vancouver International Film Festival's one must, must, must-see. Two upcoming must-see VIFF screenings: on Sunday, October 4th, at 8:30pm at Cineplex International Village, in Cinema 9; and on Wednesday, October 7th at 4:15pm, at Cineplex International Village, in Cinema 10.

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Brooklyn | Dir. John Crowley | Saoirse Ronan | 105 min. | Mon., Oct. 5, 12:30pm, The Centre

Brooklyn (Grade: A): Everything you've heard about Brooklyn is true: Saoirse Ronan will emerge as Best Actress at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on February 28th, 2016, Brooklyn will win the Best Picture Oscar (and a well-deserved win it will be, too), and when you take in the final VIFF screening of Brooklyn this coming week, you'll be glad you did, you'll cry your eyes out from beginning to end (not to worry, there are humorous bits, as well), and you'll leave Cineplex's Tinseltown Cinema 10 knowing that you've just seen the most powerful film to reach our shores in 2015. Final VIFF 2015 screening: Monday, October 5th, at 12:30pm, in The Centre.

Sparrows | Dir. Rúnar Rúnarsson | Iceland | Oct 3, 8:45pm, Cin 8; Oct 8, 2:30pm, Vancity

Note should be made that there is immense positive buzz from VIFF passholders and patrons about the following must-see films ...

  • Sparrows. Tonight, at 9:15pm, Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10; and Thursday, October 8th, at 2:30pm in the Vancity Theatre;

  • Accused. On Friday, October 9th at 6pm, at The Cinematheque;

  • Magallanes. On Tuesday, October 6th, at 3:30pm, Cineplex Cinema 9;

  • Marshland. On Monday, October 5th at 6pm, in the Rio Theatre; and

  • James White. On Friday, October 9th, 1:30pm, at SFU Woodwards

Not to mention, this upcoming week there are three must-see screenings of VanRamblings' favourite documentary, Albert Maysles' final film, In Transit, and the incredibly wonderful Quebeçois film, Ville-Marie, and the deeply affecting and entirely wondrous Iranian documentary, No Land's Song, all of which we wrote about last Sunday; and then there's VIFF Director of Programming Alan Franey's favourites, which we wrote about earlier (scroll down the page — it's a pretty skookum list of can't miss VIFF films).


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:41 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 2, 2015

VIFF2015: International Shorts Series Explores Our Present Reality

International Short Film programme at VIFF 2015

Representing the best work of nascent film talent from across our planet, the International Shorts series curated by veteran VIFF programmer Sandy Gow each year reflects, as we've written in the past, the work of an "honest and forthright, humane and caring VIFF staffperson of unparalleled integrity, as well as an abiding warmth of spirit, an individual who prioritizes films not just as 'craft', but of immense heart and cinematic intelligence."

As VanRamblings wrote in Part One of this two-post series on VIFF 2015's International Shorts programme, Sandy recommends all 37 films in the shorts series, winnowed down from the 500 short films Sandy screened, to the 37 gems you'll see screened at this, our beloved, glorious and life-changing 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Without further ado, let's get to what's most important: the films ...

Coffee to Go | Dir. Patricia Font | Actors. Alexandra Jiménez, Daniel Grao | Spain | 13 min.

Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing
A programme of short films about love, from romantic to tragic, its intoxication and heartbreak, its consequences and, oh yes, its responsibilities.
Monday, October 5th, at 1pm, International Village, Cinema 8

"This is a programme that is close to my heart as I've come to terms with my aged and deteriorating mom. As is the case with many of us of our age, our parents are not in great shape. Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing is about all the factors that come into play when you love somebody, everything from the infatuation of love when you meet someone to the responsibilities of love. Of the four International Shorts programmes this year, this is the one with the most cohesive theme, although each film is distinct within the theme in approach and subject matter."

"We've got everything from Coffee to Go, such a wonderful film, it could easily have been in the Great Performances programme, the story about a couple who have broken up and meet two years later, and it's not only really awkward, it's really painful."

Last Base, from Norwegian director Aslak Danbolt

"Then there's Last Base, a film about two base jumpers who have a commitment to a friend who died. How far will they go in risking their lives to fulfill the commitment?"

Treading Water, a new short film from director Liz Cardenas Franke

"Treading Water is all about taking care of your parents when they get old and major health issues emerge. For me this is a very personal film. This year we had several films that explored the theme of aging parents, but this one was the best of the bunch."

What Defines Reality? a VIFF 2015 International Shorts programme

What Defines Reality?
This programme of shorts probes the title question, as well as things that can influence our world views, be they social, political or religious conventions, the opinions of others, or even our own sense of self.
Sunday, October 4th, at 3:45pm, International Village, Cinema 8

"The overall thematic structure in this series, although the films are all quite different, speaks to our sense of self, how others perceive us, and the decisions one makes in one's life."

"In Birthday, a soldier returns from combat severely injured, he's lost his legs, and gives in to serious depression. But by film's end, he manages to rise above."

Deformity Prays for Radiation, a poetic folk tale of two scientists

"Deformity Prays For Radiation is a beautiful little film that the Festival will present as a world première. It's like a folk tale complete with a Greek, in this case a Ukrainian chorus commenting on the action. It's all about the decay of things, and one of them is a relationship of sorts."


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:25 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 1, 2015

VIFF2015: Sandy Gow's Wowzer International Shorts Programme

International Short Film programme at VIFF 2015

In today's first post in a two-part series on the curated International Shorts series screening at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, Sandy Gow — a Festival veteran, jack-of-all-trades and VIFF Programmer since 1988 (the first year Senior Programmer PoChu AuYeung joined VIFF, as well) — will provide insight into each of the international series that have emerged as four distinct shorts programmes at VIFF2015.

In My Shoes: Five transgender young people talk about what it's like to be them
In My Shoes, five transgender teens talk about what it's like to be them | Australia | 7 min.

Three notes should be made about the International Shorts programme ...

  • The International Shorts programme is too often overlooked by VIFF patrons who while striving to see the best in world cinema — those rare gems that will never grace our shores again and must be seen at VIFF and only VIFF — neglect to consider that the birth of the finely-honed features that emerge as life-changing events at VIFF often occur within the realm of the 9-to-15-minute short, a film in the truest sense (despite its length) that garners the necessary attention to allow the novice filmmaker to make a longer form feature film.

  • At the Festival, this year or any other year Sandy Gow has curated an International Shorts programme, VIFF offers patrons only one "lock" on filmic quality, one cinematic guarantee, a "you can take it to the bank" surety, and that is: most, if not all, of the films in any given international shorts programme will come to represent the best experience you will have inside a darkened theatre over your 16 days at VIFF. Sandy's heart, his intellect, and the wisdom of his years are poured into the decisions he makes in choosing from among the 700 entries for consideration of inclusion in his shorts programmes (500 of which films Sandy sees himself), the thirty-seven shorts included in the four curated programmes at VIFF2015 a winsome combination of intimate, humane, thoughtful, provocative, revelatory, and heartbreakingly extraordinary chronicles of the human condition.

  • Competition. Take a gander at your Facebook feed, or listen to the conversations in the lineups as passholders "discuss" how many films they've seen that day, and what their "count" of films screened is as of any given day — in some sense VIFF is, at times, a "competition" to see the most films (and why not? what a treat to see 100+ films!). Imagine the following: take in a screening of every one of the 37 shorts in the four IS programmes, and your number of films screened will surely come close to or break the magic 100 number! Although a gentle humility defines the approach of the VIFF veteran to her fellow Festival patrons, a bit of boastfulness from time to time surely cannot be out of place. Thirty-seven films added to your list of films seen at VIFF2015, and a glorious and transformative 415 minutes in the cinema! At the Vancouver International Film Festival, we call that bliss.

Now on to the business at hand, the charmingly avuncular Sandy Gow on the first two of the International Shorts programmes up for discussion ...

In The Still of The Night, a short film by Erich Steiner, Austria
In The Still of the Night, a beautiful and disturbing period piece | Austria | 14 min.

In the Dark Reaches of the Soul
A programme of beautiful, haunting and often disturbing films — though sometimes in these dark reaches we find hope
Friday, October 2nd, at 6:15pm, International Village, Cinema 8
Tuesday, October 6th, at 4pm, International Village, Cinema 8

"An alternative title for this series may well have been "Disturbing Endings," because there are many films in this programme that have really quite disturbing endings. The intriguing aspect of the eight films in this series is that although the films are often unsettling, the disturbing ending is left until almost the very last moment of the film. The last punch is the last punch; there's no attempt to contextualize, there's no addendum, you're just left sitting there saying, "Holy shit! I didn't see that coming."

Soap, directed by Christopher Brown
Soap, the Canadian première of Christopher Brown's short film | United Kingdom | 16 min.

Great Performances
This programme of shorts highlights stellar acting, and demonstrates how vital this is to the success of a film as a whole, whether a two-hander or an ensemble piece.
Saturday, October 3rd, at 9pm, International Village, Cinema 9
Wednesday, October 7th, at 1pm, International Village, Cinema 8

"Until I make the final selections, I have no idea what any of the themes of the programmes are; there are no preconceptions. Great Performances was a programme that began to emerge when, as I was selecting films, I saw a group of films with terrific performances. Two years ago, I curated a programme titled Two Handers, which was a great way to highlight acting; in 2015, it occurred to me we could do something, although not quite the same, somewhat similar in that it would highlight great acting."

"Over the course of the year, I often see films where good ideas are let down by less than stellar performances. If the acting doesn't deliver, all of the other work that goes into making a film goes to waste, a great script, a good director, luminous cinematography, all that can come to nought."

"Of the four International Shorts series this year, the Great Performances programme is the most diverse: the only criteria for this series was ... great acting. You've got The Moor, featuring a great many New York actors you'll recognize almost immediately; it's such a beautiful ensemble piece."

"Operator features essentially a solo performance — and is a must-see, the most intense six and half minutes you'll ever have experienced in a theatre. You walk away from Operator with a newfound respect for the folks who work in emergency services handling the 911 calls — your head is just turned around. Operator is also one of the three films in this series where the offscreen sound is critically important. Injury Time, Operator and Soap — in all three films, offscreen sound is almost like a character in the film."

Cherry Cake, a short film by Jaine Green, at VIFF 2015
Cherry Cake | International Premiere | In attendance: Director Jaine Green | UK | 15 min.

"There are some surprises in this series, as well: Cherry Cake is just a delight, again with two veteran British actors — I don't want to give it away, but you have to wonder how Eve Pearce was talked into appearing opposite Matthew Kelly in the film. It'll be a hot topic of conversation at the Q&A afterwards, when director Jaine Green will be taking questions."


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:08 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 29, 2015

VIFF2015: Welcoming, Organized and Logistically Pristine

Brie Koniczek (on the right), the Wayne Gretzky of VIFF venue managementVIFF venue manager extraordinaire, the lovely Brie Koniczek (on the right) with VIFF staff

Brie Koniczek has worked with the Vancouver International Film Festival for a number of years, and during her time with VIFF has taken on the herculean task of managing various of the VIFF venues (we first wrote about Brie in 2011), this year and for the past couple of years, the Cineplex International Village site. Last year VanRamblings wrote about Brie ...

"In the centre of an early morning storm at the Cineplex site Brie, and Brie alone, working with volunteer staff, remained calm, always smiling, always genuine (utterly, utterly genuine and humane), always lovely and engaging beyond words, communicative, warming, welcoming and reassuring while assuming the onerous responsibility of taking virtually sole responsibility for overseeing the ingress of three long lines of patrons, distributing the "ticketing chits", directing volunteer staff quietly, efficiently, and humanely, all the while interacting with and re-assuring patrons in all three lines, and down in the will call / rush line-up, that all was well, Brie's commitment always to logistically pristine exhibition management, and a most salutary patron experience."

Of course, Brie does not manage the VIFF Cineplex site all on her own.

In 2015, the good lookin' and quintessentially organized Peter Quin-Conroy, the ever-wonderful and humane Sue Cormier, among others (and let's not forget VIFF's Audience Relations Manager, Mickey Brazeau, quite simply one of my favourite people on the planet), find themselves pulling "management duty" at the VIFF Cineplex International Village site, all to good effect, providing the best possible VIFF patron experience.

Then, along with Mickey, there's the VIFF team of managers who pulled the whole logistically pristine venue management scheme together for 2015 (and wildly successful it is this year, too): in particular, Faye Parlow, VIFF's Operations Manager, and Lori Strong, VIFF's Office & Facility Manager, about whom there has been much positive buzz this year ...

"It was Faye and Lori who, along with Mickey, pulled in new managers this year, and it's the three of them who are in good measure responsible for the success we've had at the various venues, in 2015."

In a future post, VanRamblings will introduce you to the new, 2015 VIFF venue managers, when we'll write about the returning managers, as well. And, of course, it goes without saying (but should be said nonetheless), that all of us who love the Vancouver International Film Festival are grateful-beyond-words for the invaluable role VIFF volunteers play in helping to keep VIFF an accessible, welcoming & pleasurable experience for patrons.

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Given all of the above, there is one reigning intelligence overseeing VIFF venue management this year, as he did for the first time last year as the newly-installed VIFF Exhibitions Manager, the one person about whom everyone VanRamblings has spoken with about venue management in 2015 year speaks about in reverential tones of near awe and amazement, and that transcendent personage of nonpareil accomplishment would be ...

Sean Wilson, Exhibitions Manager, Vancouver International Film FestivalSean Wilson, 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival Exhibitions Manager | VIFF2015

Yes, that would be Sean Wilson above who at VIFF2015 may be found alone, sequestered deep inside a darkened room, almost recumbent and near zen-like in front of the VIFF venue management computer at this year's glorious, one-of-a-kind, long-to-be-fondly-remembered 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, you know, the computer that tracks the whereabouts of volunteers (and whether they're going to make their shifts), tracks the gloriously structured and structural venue management team, the computer into which streams messages of importance (the emergent kind, the oh-so-don't let them happen, but gawd it's going to happen anyway emergency variety, and the not-quite-so-problematical non-emergency kind), and at the centre of this maelstrom of information?

The seer, the one, the only Sean Wilson — you likely won't see a great deal of Sean this first week of the Festival, but when you do ... thank him (and thank Brie, too). And, when you find yourself at The Vancity Theatre, acknowledge the very fine Donna Soares (a find by VIFF Audience Relations Manager Mickey Brazeau, who spotted Donna performing wonderful service at the Push Festival), and the peerless Kaen Seguin, Robyn Wilson and Jennifer Tennant at The Centre, and (once again) Peter, Brie, Mickey, Sue and Mike at VIFF's Cineplex site, and all of the fine VIFF venue managers at The Playhouse, SFU Woodwards, The Cinematheque and The Rio.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:17 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 28, 2015

VIFF2015 | Room | Most Audacious Breakout Indie Film of 2015

Breakout film of the year, Room, starring Brie LarsonRoom | Dir. Lenny Abrahamson | Author: Emma Donoghue | Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Every year, there's a breakout film, usually an independently-produced film, that seemingly comes out of nowhere to take the critics, and appreciative audiences, by storm, emerging as Oscar bait, finally finding itself so ingrained in the Oscar conversation that it goes on to a slew of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominations. In 2015, Room is that film.

Garnering immense positive buzz at the Telluride Film Festival in early September, and going on to win the prestigious People's Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival — where Room received an unprecedented and wildly enthusiastic 15-minute standing ovation — director Lenny Abrahamson's adaptation of Canadian-Irish author Emma Donoghue's acclaimed best-seller (Ms. Donoghue also wrote the screenplay for the film) opens tonight at VIFF2015, at the gorgeous and inviting Centre for the Performing Arts, in what is sure to be a sold-out screening of the probable recipient of Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (5-year-old local actor Jacob Tremblay will likely become the youngest ever Oscar award nominee), Best Screenplay, and a raft of other accolades, and subsequent Independent Spirit/Gotham and, finally, well-deserved Oscar nominations.

Variety | Justin Chang
The cramped 11-by-11-foot interior of a sealed, sound-proof garden shed isn't the only thing keeping a boy and his mother prisoner in Room, a suspenseful and heartrending drama that finds perhaps the most extreme possible metaphor for how time, regret and the end of childhood can make unknowing captives of us all.

Indiewire | Eric Kohn, Chief Film Critic | A-
Director Lenny Abrahamson seamlessly translates Emma Donoghue's masterful work into cinematic terms with his gripping and involving adaptation, the drama owing just as much to its two stars, Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay, whose textured, human-scale performances turn distressing circumstance into a credible and tense tale of survival.

Room, starring certain Oscar nominees Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay

Note: Author Emma Donoghue will be in attendance at tonight's screening of Room to introduce the film, and take part in a Q&A after the screening.

Bring tissues. Get your tickets now. Line up early. See ya tonight, at Room.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:23 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 27, 2015

VIFF 2015: Three Upcoming, Can't Miss VIFF Must-Sees

Senior VIFF Programmer PoChu AuYeung, and an already weary J.B. ShayneSenior VIFF Programmer PoChu AuYeung, and the ever dour and oh-so-weary J.B. Shayne

Well, here we are into Day Four of the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival — the most logistically pristine Festival in all of its 34 voluptuously triumphant years — and the films just keep on comin'. And what a great Festival for world cinema VIFF 2015 has proven to be ...

Non-Fiction (America) | In Transit

In Transit | Albert Maysles' visionary new film | VIFF Canadian Premiere | a VIFF must-see

In Transit (Grade: A+): A non-fiction film that revels in the search for the authentic self, celebrated documentarian Albert Maysles' final film is all at once: groundbreaking, masterful, chillingly powerful, thoughtful, intimate, engaging, philosophical, and an extraordinarily humane chronicle on the narrative power of our everyday lives. As Ronnie Scheib, in Variety, writes, "a fitting farewell to an American ethnographer." Showtimes: October 5th, 10:30am, Cin8; Oct. 7th, 7pm, Cin10; Oct. 8th, 2pm, Cin10. A must-see.

Canadian / Quebeçois | Ville-Marie

Ville-Marie (Grade: A-): Guy Édoin's lushly appointed film keenly observes four characters: Pierre (Patrick Hivon), an ambulance driver coping with PTSD, Marie (the luminous Pascale Bussières), an ER nurse at the understaffed Ville-Marie Hospital, Sophie Bernard (Monica Bellucci), a European actress who's in Montréal to shoot a semi-autobiographical film, and Thomas (Aliocha Schneider), her gay son, who is increasingly insistent that she reveal the name of his father and the circumstances of his birth. Captivating from beginning to end as it comes to focus on the mercies of the protagonists' past tragedies, Ville-Marie moves from strength to strength to strength, from movie's outset to its relevatory denouement. Showtimes: October 1st, 9:15pm, Cin10; Oct. 4th, 10:30am, Cin8.

Non-Fiction (Iranian) | No Land's Song

No Land's Song (Grade: A): Three years ago, the Iranian singer and composer Sara Najafi came up with the idea of hosting a concert in Tehran, her hometown. It was a plan so audacious, it seemed slightly crazy. The concert would be "a festival of the female voice" featuring solo singers — not just Iranians, but artists from France and Tunisia, too. Nothing like it had been attempted in Iran for 35 years: after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, women were banned from singing solo in public.

No Land's Song review: Tender, undeniable, deeply affecting (or, as one critic wrote, "incredibly emotional"), provocative, risky, occasionally hugely depressing and, in the end, thrillingly heartbreaking and heart-stoppingly redemptive, No Land's Song is one of the must-see documentary films at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival. Showtimes: September 29th, 10:30am, Cin8; October 3rd, 9pm & October 5th, 4pm, Playhouse.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:10 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 26, 2015

VIFF 2015: Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominees at VIFF 2015

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entries screening at VIFF 2015

Each year, 75 countries from across the globe submit one very special film from their country to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as their entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar sweepstakes.

More entries are making their way to the Academy every day, with final submissions due by mid-October. Below you'll find the 12 films that have been submitted by their respective countries that are also screening at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival. As we become aware of further entries that will screen at VIFF, we'll update the "list" below, and alert you in future VanRamblings' posts (and/or on Twitter, @raytomlin).

With more than 200 foreign language features set to screen at VIFF 2015 — an almost overwhelming number of films from which to choose the dozen or more films you'll take in at VIFF this year — the rationale behind today's VanRamblings post is to offer you some small degree of direction as you review the VIFF Guide as to films that may be worthy of your attention.


The Assassin | Taiwan | Hou Hsiao-hsien | Best Director, Cannes 2015 | Review, The Playlist


600 Miles | Mexico | Director, Gabriel Ripstein | Best First Feature, Panorama, Berlin 2015

Ixcanul | Guatemala | Director, Jayro Bustamante | Alfred Bauer Prize, Berlin 2015

100 Yen Love | Japan | Review, Peter Debruge, Variety | Best Japanese Feature, Tokyo

Mustang | France | Europa Cinema, Best European Film | Directors' Fortnight, Cannes 2015

Son of Saul | Hungary | Review, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian | Grand Prix, Cannes 2015


The Club | Chile | Director, Pablo Larraín | Silver Bear (Grand Jury Prize), Berlin 2015

Aferim! | Romania | Radu Jude | Silver Bear (Best Director), Berlin 2015 | Review, Screen

Rams | Iceland | Grímur Hákonarson | Grand Prix, Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2015


The Second Mother | Brazil | Audience Award, Berlin 2015 | Special Jury Award, Sundance

Embrace of the Serpent | Colombia | Art Cinema Award, Directors' Fortnight, Cannes 2015

Thina Sobabili: The Two of Us | South Africa | Audience Award, 2015 Pan African Film Festival


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:17 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 25, 2015

First Full Day for Both the New York and Vancouver Film Festivals

53rd annual New York and 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festivals

Do you have a hankering to travel to Gotham early in this autumn season?

Thought that, as it would coincide with your sojourn to the city that never sleeps, you might take in a screening or three at this year's prestigious 53rd annual New York Film Festival? Taking a gander at your bank account, though, you conclude, "New York in the autumn would be good, but perhaps not this year. Too bad I'll miss out on the great films at NYFF53."

Fear not avid cinephile, for once again this year our very own homegrown (and equally as prestigious and inviting) Vancouver International Film Festival will share many of the heavily-juried and well-reviewed films that will screen in New York; fifteen out of the NYFF53's thirty films, to be exact.

Hallellujah, for we are saved, as New York hops on a plane, a bus, a train to arrive weary, but invigorated, along the pristine shores of our west coast paradise. Here, then, is the complete list of the 15 celebrated Festival films that will screen simultaneously in both New York and Vancouver ...

Arabian Nights, Volume 1 | The Restless One | Director, Miguel GomesArabian Nights, Vol. 1 | The Restless One | Miguel Gomes | 2015 | Portugal | 125 minutes

A contemporary rethinking of what it means to make a political film, Miguel Gomes' epic paean to the art of storytelling — filmed during Portugal's recent plunge into austerity — offers a generous, radical chronicle of our troubled times, one that honours its fantasy life as fully as its hard realities.

Arabian Nights, Volume 2 | The Desolate One | Director, Miguel GomesArabian Nights, Vol. 2 | The Desolate One | Miguel Gomes | 2015 | Portugal | 131 minutes

Unfolding in a more melancholic register, Miguel Gomes' monumental yet light-footed magnum opus shifts tones and genres at will (deadpan neo-Western, Brechtian courtroom farce, tear-jerking melodrama), all the while treating its fantasy dimension as a path to a more meaningful truth.

Arabian Nights, Volume 3 | The Enchanted One | Director, Miguel GomesArabian Nights, Vol. 3 | The Enchanted One | Miguel Gomes | 2015 | Portugal | 125 minutes

As enthralling as it is eccentric, the final installment of Miguel Gomes' sui generis epic features a sunny interlude of freedom for the heroine Scheherazade and an affectionate documentary chronicle of Lisbon-area bird trappers and birdsong competitions.

The Assassin | Director, Hou Hsiao-hsienThe Assassin | Hou Hsiao-hsien | 2015 | Taiwan | 105 minutes

Crystalline in beauty and oblique in narrative, this year's Cannes Best Director winner Hou Hsiao-hsien's eagerly awaited wuxia stars Shu Qi as a Tang Dynasty assassin, dedicated to the art of killing until memory transforms her course of action.

Brooklyn | Director, John Crowley | Starring Saoirse RonanBrooklyn | John Crowley | 2015 | VIFF Opening Gala | Ireland | 105 minutes

Saoirse Ronan, as vibrantly alive as a silent-screen heroine, plays Eilis, who leaves her native Ireland in the early 1950s, slowly builds a better life for herself, and is then called back home, to another possible future, in this lovely adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel.

Cemetery of Splendour | Director, Apichatpong WeerasethakulCemetery of Splendour | Apichatpong Weerasethakul | 2015 | Thailand | 121 minutes

A hospital ward full of comatose soldiers wage war in their sleep on behalf of long-dead feuding kings in the wondrous new film by Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a sun-dappled reverie that induces in the viewer a sensation of lucid dreaming.

Experimenter | Director, Michael Almereyda | Starring Peter SarsgaardExperimenter | Michael Almereyda | 2015 | USA | 108 minutes

Michael Almreyda's portrait of Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard), the social scientist whose 1961 "obedience study" reflected back on the Holocaust and anticipated Abu Ghraib, is both appropriately uncompromising and surprisingly compassionate.

The Forbidden Room, directed by Guy Maddin and Evan JohnsonThe Forbidden Room | Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson | 2015 | Canada | 132 minutes

In his insane magnum opus, cinema's reigning master of feverish filmic fetishism embarks on a phantasmagoric narrative adventure of stories within stories within dreams within flashbacks in a delirious globe-trotting mise en abyme, diving deeper than ever.

In the Shadow of Women, directed by Philippe Garrel
In The Shadow of Women
| Philippe Garrel | 2015 | France | 73 minutes

The exquisite new film by the great Philippe Garrel offers a close look at infidelity — not merely the fact of it, but the particular, divergent ways in which it's experienced and understood by men and women.

The Lobster, directed by Yorgos LanthimosThe Lobster | Yorgos Lanthimos | 2015 | United Kingdom, Greece | 118 minutes

In the future, single people are rounded up and sent to a seaside compound, given a finite number of days to find a match, and turned into animals if they fail. Welcome to the latest dark, dark comedy from absurdist Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Winner of a Cannes Jury Prize.

The Measure of a Man, directed by Stéphane BrizéThe Measure of a Man | Stéphane Brizé | 2015 | France | 93 minutes

Dispassionately monitoring the progress of its stoic unemployed everyman (Vincent Lindon, in his finest performance to date, which earned him the Best Actor prize at Cannes) as he submits to a series of quietly humiliating ordeals in his search for work, this powerful and troubling film reveals the realities of our new economic order.

Mountains May Depart, directed by Jia ZhangkeMountains May Depart | Jia Zhangke | 2015 | China | 131 minutes

An epically scaled canvas of life in contemporary China, Jia Zhangke's new film spans three decades in the lives of its increasingly estranged characters, from the dawn of the capitalist explosion to the near future.

My Golden Days, directed by Arnaud Desplechin
My Golden Days | Arnaud Desplechin | 2015 | France | 123 minutes

Arnaud Desplechin reaches Shakespearean heights with his intimate yet expansive new film, three varied but interlocking episodes in the life of his hero, with the wondrous experience of first love between Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) and Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet) at its core.

Right Now, Wrong Then, directed by Hong SangsooRight Now, Wrong Then | Hong Sangsoo | 2015 | South Korea | 121 minutes

A middle-aged art-film director and a fledgling artist meet — she knows he's famous but doesn't know his films, he'd like to see her paintings. Every word, pause, facial expression, and movement in Hong Sangsoo's masterful new film is a negotiation between revelation and concealment.

The Treasure, directed by Corneliu PorumboiuThe Treasure | Corneliu Porumboiu | 2015 | Romania | 89 minutes

A man is approached by his neighbour with a business proposition: lend him some money to look for buried treasure in his family's backyard and they'll split the proceeds. Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu's magical modern-day fable stays continually surprising and funny.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:02 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 24, 2015

VIFF 2015: Vancouver's Award-Winning HomeGrown Film Festival

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners

Throughout the year, the Vancouver International Film Festival's team of programmers travel the globe in search of the very best in world cinema, attending the better-known festivals such as Sundance in January, Berlin in February, Hong Kong and South by Southwest in March, Tribeca in April, Cannes in May, Seattle in late May through mid-June, as well as the myriad smaller but still prestigious film festivals in Rotterdam, Edinburgh, London, Locarno and the Czech Republic, among many, many other Festivals.

In late September of each year for 16 days, world cinema arrives on our shores, providing a window on the world, screenings scheduled once, twice or three times at VIFF, the vast majority of films never to be seen in our cinemas ever again. Either you see that very special, award-winning Turkish or Iranian, Japanese or Romanian, Chilean or Ugandan film as part of the annual Vancouver International Film Festival, or you will have missed out.

And what of those very special, award-winning films you'll want to place on your VIFF 2015 screening schedule.

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2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners
Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:14 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 21, 2015

VIFF 2015: Bigger, Stronger, Better. A Guide to This Year's Festival
Everything you need to know about tickets, lines, food, films, and more at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival

The 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, September 24th with the Opening Gala screening of the probable Oscar contender Brooklyn, at the sumptuous 1800-seat Centre for the Performing Arts (see viff.org for details), offering a dizzying 16-day array of movies — 355 of them to be exact, from 70 countries across the globe.

Here's some advice on how to navigate the madness.

Wondering what movie to choose? VIFF has conveniently sorted its many offerings into six major themes this year: Deep Time, First Nations, The Great Divide, VIFF Impact, Hidden Past, Digital Futures, and On Comedy.

As has long been the case, you can browse film listings by programme or category: Non-Fiction, Canadian Images, BC Spotlight, Dragons & Tigers, International Shorts, Altered States, and Cinema of Our Time.

VIFF Executive Director Jacqueline Dupuis' 7-film Style series returns for a second year, as does the annual Spotlight on France series, which in 2015 features 12 outstanding Gallic features. Word out of VIFF has it that the five Romanian films are all excellent, and deserving of cinephile attention.

Wondering about how and where to buy tickets? There's no one central box office; you can, however, purchase tickets anytime online at viff.org, and print out your tickets at home. Note that there is a service charge for online and phone orders: $1 per single ticket, up to $5 per order. Purchase of the annual $2 membership is required by law before ordering tickets.

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival tickets and passes

Tickets are also available at all of the theatre box offices.

The venues this year are, once again, The Centre for the Performing Arts, on Homer at Robson; Cineplex's International Village, on Pender Street (the old Tinseltown); the eastside's Rio Theatre, Commercial Drive at Broadway; SFU's Goldcorp Theatre for the Arts, at 149 West Hastings, at Abbott; the Vancouver Playhouse, on Hamilton Street at Dunsmuir; The Cinematheque, on Howe; and the always inviting and oh-so-comfy Vancity Theatre, on Seymour (VIFF's year-round venue!).

VIFF 2015 venue, The Centre for the Performing Arts

Please note: you can buy tickets for any Film Festival screening at any one of the seven Festival venues (during hours of operation). Tickets prices range from $10 for youth to $14 for adults, with Gala screenings priced at $22. There are a range of discount ticket packs, as well as passes that may be acquired, ranging in price from $180 for the Matinee Pass to $330 for the student or senior pass, and the $420 full 16-day Festival pass.

Patrons can find out how busy a screening is expected to be by going online, and checking tickets.viff.org.

Confused? Any questions you may have can be answered by e-mailing the Festival at info@viff.org, or by calling 604-683-FILM (3456), anytime between 10am and 7pm. Most questions can be answered, as well, simply by going online to viff.org/festival, or by taking a gander at the gorgeous, absolutely free booklet, VIFF - The Complete Guide, available almost everywhere across Metro Vancouver.

Once again this year, a VIFF app will be available on Apple's App store, or through Google Play, for Android phones. Twitter will also prove a good resource for Festival information (@VIFFest).

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancity Theatre lineup

Wondering about all those lines? Each VIFF screening will have three: a pass-holder line (for those with passes hanging around their necks; you know who you are), a ticket-holders line (for those with tickets in hand), and a rush line. Standby tickets, for screenings that are sold out, go on sale 10 minutes before showtime, at full price (cash preferred). No matter which line you're in, arriving at least 30 minutes early is a good idea, particularly if you're picky about where you sit.

Wondering about food and drink? Though most VIFF venues serve standard cinema fare, there are a great many eateries nearby all of the venues where you might purchase a snack, or sit down to a meal. Outside food is officially not allowed, but VIFF-goers have been known to get away with it; be discreet and tidy (absolutely no food to be taken inside at The Centre, though).

Wondering about travel to, and around, the Festival? Transit is best, walking is second best. Parking is spotty, and expensive. All of the venues are located in the downtown core, so getting around shouldn't prove too much of a challenge.

Room, Audience Award winner at the Toronto Film Festival, and certain Oscar contender

Wondering which movies will be back post-VIFF? Here are just a few VIFF movies that will return soon for regular runs: the Telluride / Toronto Film Festival stunner Room, certain Oscar nominee Brooklyn, I Saw The Light, Youth, Cannes Palme d'Or winner Dheepan, multiple Berlin Film Festival award winner 45 Years, Brazil's 2015 Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee, The Second Mother, the film that took Cannes by storm Son of Saul, Meru, The Assassin, and doubtless many more. You might, of course, want to see these movies at VIFF because of the possibility of special guests, or the fun of catching something early — but you also might want to wait and see the films without the VIFF crowds.

Most years, VanRamblings presents a list of the 20 must-sees; this year we'll depart from our usual practice by presenting the favourite, can't miss films as identified by the Vancouver International Film Festival's retired Festival Director (who has now taken on the title of Chief Programmer), Alan Franey.

"A central mandate of the Vancouver International Film Festival is to entertain, but more than that we want VIFF films to enlighten," says Franey. "We're different than any other film festival because of our commitment to the multi-cultural mosaic. VIFF patrons have told us over the years that they're not interested in the big Hollywood films, or the presumed Oscar contenders, although we have programmed a handful of those often worthy films, titles that you'll find in this year's VIFF Guide."

"VIFF is a community-based Festival serving the broadest cross-section of the 2.4 million of us who live across Metro Vancouver, in every ethnic community, from every part of the world. No other Canadian festival brings in 355 films, or more, from 70 different countries, with as strong an emphasis on the films of East Asia, and world cinema. Vancouver's continued dedication to the dynamic of multi-cultural films has contributed greatly to VIFF's ongoing success."

Here they are then, Alan Franey's favourite "under the radar" films screening at VIFF 2015 ...

  • France's The Measure of a Man. Vincent Lindon picked up the Best Actor award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, in a film the VIFF guide describes as "Stéphane Brizé's profoundly humanist and exceedingly timely film," various critics stating that Measure is social drama similar to the work of the Dardennes Brothers (or even Ken Loach), a film that spares no harrowing detail in this working-class chronicle of an unemployed father trying to make ends meet, his unemployment benefits soon to run out, his income so reduced that there is not enough money to pay the mortgage, and maintain his wife and handicapped teenage son. In the film, Brizé seeks to evoke the resistance in the working class to the wave of factory closures and mass layoffs since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Also among Alan's favourites, there's New Zealand's A Flickering Truth, Holland's Schneider vs. Bax, Iceland's Rams, Ireland's One Million Dubliners, the U.S.A.'s 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets and Experimenter, Lithuania's The Summer of Sengalié, Poland's Body, Israel's Tikkun (a multiple award winner), Brazil's Absence (which Alan said knocked him out), and all three volumes of Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' triptych, Arabian Nights (which Alan recommends not be watched back to back, but over a period of days ... three screenings of each film in the series has been scheduled).

Commencing Thursday, September 24th, VanRamblings will provide daily coverage of the Festival, which will continue right on through until Festival's end on Friday, October 9th, as has been the case in past years.

Now you know almost all there is to know about the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, save actually sitting down to watch two dozen or more of the very best in world cinema, a process that offers always a necessary and invaluable window on our ever-changing world.

Happy VIFF-ing!


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:37 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

September 4, 2015

Film Festival Season Arrives Much to the Delight of Cinephiles

September film festivals, from Venice, Telluride and Toronto, to Vancouver and New York

The most glorious time of year for cinéastes across the globe occurs in the month of September, as five prestigious film festivals programme films that in the months to come will take the world by storm, set the stage for Oscar season, and for true diehard festival attendees — in evanescent moments of cinematic splendour — allow the screening of hundreds of films spanning the globe in origin, to be seen only within the rarified humanist atmosphere of the film festival, thereafter to vanish forevermore. Sigh.

Only 48 short hours ago, the 72nd annual Venice Film Festival kicked off with the out of competition world première screening of Baltasar Kormakur's emotionally riveting mountain climbing thriller, Everest, providing bursts of anxiety and cliff-hanging 3D drama in the star-studded Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido. Fortunate for Vancouver's anticipatory hometown cinephile crowd, a goodly number of the lauded Biennale di Venezia films will find their way to our calming and beatific shores, as the always glorious and transformative 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival sets about to screen many of the Venice Film Festival award-winners, our very own illustrious Festival-by-sea commencing at 10am, Thursday, Sept. 24th, completing its run late, late on Friday, October 9th.

Earlier this week, the fine folks at the Vancouver International Film Festival announced that their Opening Gala film will be the smash Sundance hit, Brooklyn. One of this autumn's most anticipated film releases, and a certain Best Picture Oscar nominee, with Saorise Ronan a lock for a Best Actress Oscar nod, in his The Playlist review of Brooklyn, Rodrigo Perez wrote ...

Home is where the heart is, and love, longing, and grieving for the departed fragments of our lives we can never return to are lovingly realized in John Crowley's exquisitely crafted and beautiful Brooklyn. Based on the novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín, and delicately adapted by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant who travels to America in the early 1950s for a more prosperous life.

With empathetic specificity, Brooklyn nails the emotional complexity of homesickness beyond mere melancholic nostalgia. It's a despair for the absence of friends, family, and comforting familiarities that define our lives, but as well a lovesick longing for a past that no longer exists; a tearful goodbye for a moment in time now awash in memory. With a beautiful tenderness that never rings false, Crowley's graceful film fills in every emotional contour with warmth and sensitivity.

A heartbreaking and poignant story about choices, country, commitments, sacrifice, and love, Brooklyn is a superb, luminous, and bittersweet portrayal of who we are, where we've come from, where we're going, and the places we call home.

Brooklyn makes its Vancouver début at the Centre for the Performing Arts, at 7pm on Thursday, September 24th (the Festival has programmed two additional screenings of this must-see VIFF 2015 première).

Meanwhile, Curtis Woloschuk, Jack Vermee and the editorial members of VIFF's publication team released this year's glossy 108-page programming guide to the 2015 Festival, currently available at the Vancity Theatre, but soon to be available at libraries across Metro Vancouver, as well as bookstores, coffee shops, video stores and most any place that people gather. An impressive humanist document, The Complete Guide makes for a compelling read, as it sets about to provides a road map to the singularly most engaging arts event on the autumn calendar.

On Thursday, the Telluride Film Festival programming staff released the up until then secret list of future Oscar nominees set to screen in the southwestern mountainous climes of Miguel County, Colorado. The incomparable list of films that attendees will screen over the four-day Labour Day weekend, kicking off today, represent the very best in cinema that will be released in 2015 (note should be made that every Best Picture Oscar winner over the past 10 years made its début at Telluride).

Several of the films making their début at Telluride are also scheduled to screen at our very own VIFF, including certain Oscar contender, Son of Saul (which took Cannes by storm); Berlin Film Festival award-winner, 45 Years; Jafar Panahi's Taxi; Lenny Abrahamson's much-anticipated Room; and, Avishai Sivan's shocking Festival winner, Tikkun, among many other prestigious award-winning international films of cinematic excellence.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated film making it's international début at Telluride is Sarah Gavron's Suffragette, the film's star — the luminous Carey Mulligan — a certain Best Actress Oscar contender. Suffragette arrives in Vancouver in late October.

Each year for the past 30 years and more, media from across the globe travel to the centre of the universe, as a calvacade of A-list Hollywood stars converge on Canada's largest metropolitan centre for the Toronto Film Festival, where the movie industry is afforded the opportunity to present cinema's (read: Hollywood's) very best, where the prestige films on offer at TIFF will garner critical and, some months down the road, Oscar attention, where films reviewed in the hothouse atmosphere of Toronto to rapturous acclaim capture the public's imagination (how could they not?), pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Hollywood's already overladen coffers, gifting Hollywood's woebegotten producers with the Oscar hardware that says, "You done good Hollywood. We forgive you for the plethora of cynical CGI-infected comic book movies. Thank you. You've done yourself proud."

53rd annual New York Film Festival

Last but certainly not least, there's the heavily juried New York Film Festival, the 53rd version of which commences September 25th, the day after our very own festival by the sea, la-la-land's always wonderful Vancouver International Film Festival, gets underway.

Can't travel to New York for NYFF53? Not to worry. Although it drives VIFF print traffic mavens Kathy Evans and Selina Crammond absolutely bonkers, a goodly number of NYFF53's finest also screen in Vancouver (Kathy and Selina on the phone with New York hourly to ensure the one and only "print" of the film makes it to Vancouver following the New York screening).

In 2015, New York and Vancouver share Miguel Gomes's monumental yet light-footed magnum opus, Arabian Nights, Volumes 1, 2 & 3; Cannes Best Director winner Hou Hsiao-hsien's, The Assassin; Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan's vibrantly alive emigré epic; Cemetery of Splendour, the wondrous new film by Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Experimenter, Michael Almreyda's portrait of Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard), the social scientist whose 1961 "obedience study" reflected back on the Holocaust and anticipated Abu Ghraib.

The Forbidden Room, Guy Maddin's insane and phantasmagorical magnum opus; In the Shadow of Women, the exquisite new film by the great Philippe Garrel, who takes a close look at infidelity, and the divergent ways in which it's experienced and understood by men and women; The Lobster, absurdist Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' acclaimed Cannes Jury Prize winner; and The Measure of a Man, Stéphane Brizé's powerful and troubling new film, which earned Vincent Lindon the Best Actor prize at Cannes.

Mountains May Depart, Jia Zhangke's newest epic, spanning three decades in the lives of the film's increasingly estranged characters, from the dawn of China's capitalist explosion to the near future; My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin's triptych exploration of first love; Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong Sangsoo's wry comedy of manners, laced with heavy drinking & regret; and, The Treasure, Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu's magical modern-day fable, which Variety called, "a deadpan gem."

Count 'em. Fifteen of the New York Film Festival's 30 heavily juried films will screen in Vancouver, virtually simultaneously with the Big Apple.

Film festivals offer a window on our world, and an intimate exploration of the lives of folks just like us, who reside in every far flung country across our globe. The Vancouver Film Festival: 16 days, 70 countries, 355 films.

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival

Tickets (and passes) are on sale now for the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival at the Vancity Theatre, and soon at these listed locations. When I dropped by the Vancity on Thursday to pick up my hot-off-the-press copy of VIFF's wonderfully gorgeous and expansive The Complete Guide (it's free folks — pick up a copy, and schedule a dozen films, or three) ticket sales were brisk. A heartening sight to see, indeed.

Today's Festival column constitutes the first of many such columns that will focus on the Vancouver International Film Festival. Commencing September 24th, VanRamblings will take a 17-day break from coverage of the federal election, VIFF winning out over Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau. Last year, VanRamblings covered Vancouver's municipal election, and in consequence our usual VIFF coverage suffered — not this year!


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:41 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

   



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